The idea of sustainable fashion does not often ring a bell in Textile Shirt policy corridors. The government is rightly bothered about more pressing concerns. Sustainable fashion is considered to be a past time of elites and holds little value in the eyes of policy stakeholders. This belief reflects in countless national policy documents which make no mention of sustainable fashion. These documents, after all, are serious documents which should make tangible impact in lives majority of Indians.
Sustainable fashion is not taken seriously because people who have forayed into the space have not made a compelling case of why it is important and how it does not deflect, and rather supports the national priorities—economic development, resource efficiency, and cleaner environment.The fashion industry has some startling statistics on environmental degradation. For instance, it can take 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single T-Shirt. As per World Resources Institute, 5.9 trillion litres of water are used each year for fabric dyeing alone.
Around 20% of industrial water pollution in the world comes from treatment and dyeing of textiles, and about 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textile. As per another report, every second, an equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is either burnt or landfilled. As per Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the global textile industry emits 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per-year, close to the level of emissions from the automobile industry.
With India’s high share of global population and increasing purchasing power, it would be quite soon that India starts accounting for a major share in these statistics.
Besides, there is no credible recycling chain for the billions of tonnes of fast fashion items sold every year. Majority of them are made from non-biodegradable fibres. Each year, about 60 million tonnes of new fibers are used to make garments, and no plausible concept exists on what to do with them when they are no longer needed. As a result, three-quarters of these products are disposed off in landfills or incineration plants.