The study, from the London-based “climate-friendly” writer group The Eco Experts, said the most polluting industries based on annual GHG emissions are energy, transport, manufacturing & construction, agriculture, food retail, fashion, and technology. It quoted McKinsey & Company saying the fashion industry emits about the same amount of greenhouse gases per year as the entire economies of France, Germany, and the UK combined.
And it said this is due to five main reasons. One is cheap materials with the industry using a lot of such materials — along with toxic dyes — to create its clothes, “making it one of the largest polluters of clean water”. It blamed polyester for much of the issue as it’s “created with fossil fuels and can shed microplastics into the water system when washed”. The industry’s reliance on making clothes in factories located in Asian countries, which often run on coal and gas, is also a big problem.
And its heavy water consumption is a major issue as the industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water a year. “Even natural fabrics can be a problem in the fast fashion industry,” it added, saying that to create a single cotton shirt, roughly 3,000 litres of water is needed. Transportation is another problem as shipping online orders contributes hugely to annual emissions. The combined emissions of delivery services in the US, such as FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service, are roughly equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 7 million cars.
And of course waste is a major issue. Fast fashion has led to a rise in the turnover of clothes and 85% of textiles go to the dump each year. The group is urging a faster move towards rental, resale and repair, something that’s also being encouraged by big and small names within the industry.