Despite being an organic product, the massive production of new (virgin) cotton could be harmful to our planet. The major impacts are:
Producing one cotton T-Shirt needs 20,000 litres of water, could provide a person to drink 20 years.
Besides huge consumption of water, the biggest environmental issue is from the use of chemicals (agrochemicals such as pesticides) and synthetic fertilizer in cotton farming. To produce 1kg of textile, on average 1 kg of chemical is needed.
Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton. It is estimated that by 2030, the global textile and clothing industry will produce 180 million tons of waste. The cut-offs (the left-over fabric) account for about 20 % of the industry's fabric waste. Today, less than 1% is recycled back to new textile production.
Cotton is the most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world. The production is dominated by China, India and the US. While fast fashion contributes to the production of inexpensive clothing, prices are kept down by outsourcing production to low and middle-income countries. The majority of the fast fashion products are manufactured in China and Bangladesh.
Photo credit: Mario Villafuerte via Bloomberg
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