Experts at a seminar on Saturday emphasised environment-friendly production in the apparel industry for achieving sustainable growth saying that the global fashion industry was considered as the second biggest polluter in the world.
They said that there would be a need for three times the currently available natural resources to meet consumer demand by 2050 and transformation towards a sustainable fashion industry was important to reduce the negative impact of environment pollution.
‘In Dhaka 1.3 million cubic metres of industrial wastewater and harmful chemicals enter the four local river systems daily,’ Nawshin Khair, country coordinator of Fashion Revolution, said in a presentation at the event titled ‘voice and solutions: achieving growth through sustainable production and consumption in the fashion industry’ held at BRAC Centre Inn in capital Dhaka.
ActionAid Bangladesh, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh and Fashion Revolution, a UK-based non-profit organisation, jointly organised the event.
Nawshin said that 120-125 tonnes of waste were generated in Narayanganj each day, of which 59 per cent was from cutting waste and 21 per cent from dyeing.
She also said that the textile industry was generating 300 tonnes of polluted water for washing per tonne of fabric.
According to the presentation, 250 litres of ground water are pumped out from underground for a pair of one kilogram jeans, causing water reserves to diminish faster.
She emphasised circular fashion economy and said that consumers, brands, suppliers and the government should come forward together to ensure sustainable production.
Readymade garment factory owners said Bangladesh RMG sector was adopting green production process to reduce environment pollution but changing consumers’ attitude was a big challenge in this regard.
‘Bangladesh produces readymade garment products and I think the production process of the sector is not that harmful. Wet processing and production of cotton are harmful to environment but the volume of production of cotton in Bangladesh is insignificant,’ said Faruque Hassan, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
He said that most of the apparel factories in Bangladesh adopted latest technology to reduce consumption of power and energy, and water.
Due to introducing environment-friendly technology, the use of water to wash a kg knit fabric dropped to 80 litres from 400 litres, Faruq said.
At the seminar, ActionAid country director Farah Kabir also presented a paper that said the $3-trillion global fashion industry was considered to be the second biggest polluter in the world.
She said the textile sector was the second highest user of water contributing to water waste by 20 per cent and the apparel industry emitted 10 per cent of carbon dioxide alone.
Farah said only 15 per cent of textile wastes were recycled where the remaining 85 per cent were sent to landfill; thus, negatively impacting the environment globally.
Most of the factories are located along the river banks and hazardous chemicals are being discharged into the water body affecting the marine ecosystem, reducing fish population and resulting in unsuitable land for cultivation, she said.
‘Livelihoods of mostly the local farmers and fishermen are also at stake. Many rice paddies are now inundated with toxic wastewater,’ the presentation said.
Citing an international research, Farah said that every year 1,500 billion litres of water were used to dye and wash cotton and apparel for the garment industry and the factories pumped out toxic water into rivers and canals after use as only a handful of factories had effluent water treatment plants.
‘To reduce environment pollution we have to change our attitude first,’ Dhaka North City Corporation mayor Atiqul Islam said.
Following the Rana Plaza building collapse, the readymade garment sector in Bangladesh has ensured fair wages, dignity and workplace safety for the workers and now the sector would gave to adopt apparel diplomacy to ensure sustainable growth, he said.
Atiqul said that all the stakeholders including the government, brands and buyers and consumers would have to work together to ensure environment-friendly production in the factories.