How the textile supply chain is harming the environment

textile pollution

How the textile supply chain is harming the environment

We are facing a mounting crisis around the globe. Pollution, climate change, and plastic waste are destroying the planet, with the effects becoming more and more apparent with each passing year. One thing that many people don’t realise, is that the textile supply chain plays a significant role in the waste process.

Textile mills generate 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution and use 20,000 chemicals, many of them carcinogenic, to make clothes.

While some brands are leading the way in sustainability, others are lagging behind. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we think, both on an industrial level and on a personal level.

The textile supply chain process

It’s not simply a case of using fewer toxins in the dye when making clothes.

Every aspect of the process pollutes the environment in some way, all of it building upon, and contributing to, an enormous impact on our waters, the air we breathe, and in the soil we grow our food. Every stage of the supply chain needs to think more about sustainability, from resources to consumers.

chemical dyeing pollution textile supply chain process

Spinning and Dying

The process of spinning can lead to plastics in our ocean, with has gained recent world-wide coverage after a plastic bag was found at the bottom of the world’s deepest trench. The plastics in our seas breakdown, but only into microscopic forms, which then infest the food chain, and end up in our bodies.

Traditional dying methods use an enormous amount of fresh water, with 10,000 litres needed to make a single pair of jeans. To help with this stage of the process, the Natural Resources Defence Council has issued a practical guide to responsible sourcing, with the hope of curtailing water usage and pollution.


The biggest threat to the planet from clothing manufacturing is the rise of Fast Fashion, a phenomenon which results in a faster turnaround, lower prices, and disposable clothing.

These garments aren’t made to last. Made of cheap materials, they are made to be worn only a few times before being discarded – usually in a landfill.

There needs to be a switch in the mentality of the consumer, but the problem is that people simply don’t realise the damage they are doing to the environment, so the industry needs to take the lead and start making and promoting more durable products which are made to last – even if it costs more.


The packaging our clothes are contained and sold in, contributes hugely to physical pollution around the planet. While there is a massive push towards recycling, perhaps the answer is in the investment of low-impact materials in the first place. Bio-degradable packaging or reusable packaging causes less damage to the environment and is less expensive to recycle.

Use and Disposal

Almost 100% of textiles and clothing are recyclable, which is an alarming statistic when you realise that 85% of clothes in the USA end up in landfills.

The problem here is an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality that people have, but that’s no longer becoming an excuse with images of deplorable conditions all over social media and the internet. And now that China has stopped taking the world’s rubbish, the filling of local landfills will soon become an issue for western consumers.

textile recycling

What’s being done about it?

Sustainability and climate change are now two of the most talked about issues in the industry.

Ethical Fashion is now the latest buzzword with designers, with top brands leading the way in sustainability.

The United Nations have joined with the textile industry with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At the COP23 summit in Bonn earlier this year, conversation centered around targets for future emission standards and keeping an open dialogue for future meetings and conferences.

But with designers like Eileen Fisher claiming that the clothing industry is second only to oil when it comes to global pollution, many big names in the industry are raising their voice and calling for change.

immago aiming for a better future

There are many broad-ranging discussions going on in the textile industry at the moment, but the twin themes of sustainability and social responsibility are recurring and strong.

It’s obvious that our customers are taking a keen interest in sustainability, and are looking into how they can improve on their own practices and methods.

Here at immago, we need to be pro-active in assessing our own activities, both as a real response to the challenges of these issues, and as a way of protecting the value of our own brand.

It’s obvious that every aspect of the production chain needs to change, from sourcing raw materials to the attitude of consumers, but whatever the future holds for the industry, immago will be there.

Contact us today if you have any questions about the future of sustainable practices, the textile supply chain, or anything else related to the textile industry.

Our friendly and experienced staff will be happy to help in any way they can.