Achieving growth thru Sustainable output, consumption
The global fashion industry is a US $3 trillion sector and considered to be the second biggest polluters in the world.
Globally, the textile sector is the second highest user of water contributing to water waste by 20%, and the apparel industry emits 10% of carbon dioxide alone.
Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticide and 11% pesticide production. Furthermore, only 15% of textile waste is recycled where the remaining 85% is sent to landfill; thus, negatively impacting the environment globally.
The waste, as they decompose, release methane, which is a significant contributor to global warming. Chemical dyes used in the process leach into the soil, contaminating surface and groundwater.
With the rise of fast fashion, consumers buy more, which leads to very short life cycles for products. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) forecasts a 60 percent increase in the fashion industry's greenhouse gas emissions and waste by 2030.
There will be a need for three times the currently available natural resources to meet consumer demand by 2050. There is need for transformation towards a sustainable fashion industry, if we are to reduce such negative impact.
Fashion Industry in Bangladesh: Since 1978, the Bangladesh garment and textile industry grew at an unprecedented rate. Today, 45% of all industrial employment is in the garment and textile sector, contributing to 5% of total national income. 78% of country's export earning comes from this sector.
With 3.3 million people employed in this sector, and the negative environmental impact of its operation, it is essential to take a closer look at the industry's sustainability.
In addition, there is a current widespread discussion on the effect of technology on employment in the apparel industry in Bangladesh.
According to a recent survey by Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the ratio of female worker participation in the Readymade Garment (RMG) sector, known as a women-driven sector, has seen a decline in recent years.
According to the survey, there are 3,596 active RMG Factories in Bangladesh with over 4 million workers, of which 60.8% are female (Against 65% in a study conducted in 2015) and 39.2% are male. The study also found that female workers lack technical skills compared to their male counterparts and are proportionately less knowledgeable on operating different machines.
Environmental impact of Bangladesh Fashion industry: Although, the garment industry in Bangladesh contributes significantly to the economy, it raises a number of environmental concerns. All aspects of the industry, namely spinning, weaving, knitting, wet processing and readymade garment manufacturing pollute air, water and soil.
Most factories are located along the river banks; hence waste is dumped in the rivers. Hazardous chemicals are being discharged into the water body affecting the marine ecosystem, reducing fish population and resulting in unsuitable land for cultivation. Livelihoods of mostly the local farmers and fishermen are also at stake. Many rice paddies are now inundated with toxic wastewater.
Every year 1,500 billion liters of water is used to dye and wash cotton and apparel for the garment industry, according to a study by the International Finance Corporation. Factories pump out toxic
water into rivers and canals after use. Only a handful of factories have effluent water treatment plants.
A study conducted for a paper presented at CEST (International Conference on Science and Technology) in 2017, states that there has been a sharp decline in groundwater in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, over the last two decades. Overconsumption and a lack of recharge due to urbanization are the main causes. Almost 82% of the supply of water in Dhaka is dependent on groundwater. To fulfill this huge demand of water, groundwater level is declining by 2-3 meters each year. Considering the existing depletion rate, the study predicts that the groundwater table will go down to about 110 to 115 meters by 2050 if any preventive measure is not undertaken.
It is worth mentioning here that an extensive study on the overall environmental impact as well as on sustainable process within the apparel industry in Bangladesh are not available. More evidence-based data are required through transparency and research. -Actionaid