Textile Sustainability

There are interesting debates going on across various parts of the internet in regards to the textile industries ability to be sustainable.  In forums such as linkedin and Colour Click people are arguing about whether the industry will ever achieve sustainable working methods etc.   There are obviously many opinions,  governments think it is possible  otherwise why would the Uk government have devised a whole sustainability roadmap under DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Why would certain retailers be quoting in their advertisements the life long relationship with customers or the ways they are reducing air miles etc. So it seems everyone likes the idea of sustainability but i suppose the question is can this really be a viable solution for the textile industry?  If you take it all the way back to the base material , fabric.  There are two options you have natural and synthetics.  In the case of natural probably one of the most damaging fibres is cotton,  grown in some of the worlds driest countries and needing an irrigation system that uses hundreds if not thousands of gallons of water per kilo of cotton,  can this process really be seen as environmentally friendly or sustainable.  Then you have the processing of cotton,  involving harsh polluting chemicals to scour and mercerized the cotton etc.  A dyeing process that uses large volumes of salt and alkali, finally the transportation to get the finished goods from manufacturer to consumer.  If cotton is a bad boy for the natural fibre world,  what about the synthetic world,  chemicals mixed in the correct proportions to be able to extrude a fibre,  in the case of polyester dyed at high temperature and with a low exhaustion and then discharged to the environment,  with subsequent washing and scouring processes.   I do not want to even mention the manufacture of dyes, I think anyone with any knowledge of the industry will have being in the dye manufacturing plants and tasted the chemicals in the air and seen the guys walking to their rest break covered in the colour of the day.  I am painting a pretty bleak picture of the textile colouration industry in regards to its environmental impact and its move to be sustainable.  I do think its a question that needs asking, with all these perceived negatives are we able to be a sustainable industry, or are we merely jumping on a bandwagon in an effort to be hip and trendy with no real hope of ever getting anywhere !


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