ARE BRANDS MAK­ING US WEAR DIRTY FASH­ION?

Stitch World - - NEWS -

The alarm­ing level of un­sus­tain­able fash­ion can be fig­ured out from the fact that the fast-fash­ion in­dus­try is the sec­ond largest pol­luter in the world, next to oil. The pol­lu­tion starts right from the pro­duc­tion of fi­bres – be it cot­ton, syn­thetic fi­bre or even vis­cose. Chang­ing Mar­kets Foun­da­tion, in its re­cently re­leased re­port ‘Dirty Fash­ion: On track for trans­for­ma­tion’, dis­cusses about vis­cose pol­lu­tion and a roadmap to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Vis­cose, which is con­sid­ered to be biodegrad­able, has not been able to ramp up as a sus­tain­able al­ter­na­tive be­cause of the ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion and sourc­ing meth­ods. The re­port high­lights sourc­ing wood pulp from an­cient and en­dan­gered forests and ex­ten­sive use of toxic and cor­ro­sive chem­i­cals at wet pro­cess­ing stage which makes vis­cose one of the most ir­re­spon­si­bly pro­duced fi­bres. It must be noted here that the pes­ti­cides used in cul­ti­va­tion of mi­crofi­bres, re­leased af­ter wash­ing of syn­thetic fi­bres, end up in wa­ter bod­ies, killing ma­rine life, and pol­lut­ing wa­ter as well.

As per the re­port, car­bon disul­phide (CS ), a toxic and en­docrine-dis­rupt­ing chem­i­cal and the most im­por­tant chem­i­cal in vis­cose pro­duc­tion, is the crim­i­nal be­hind caus­ing in­san­ity and sub­tler per­son­al­ity changes. Apart from this, its pro­longed ex­po­sure leads to dam­aged nerves of sen­sory ca­pac­ity, kid­ney dis­ease, Parkin­son’s-like symp­toms, heart at­tack, and stroke. The chem­i­cal can be present in both wa­ter and air.

A by-prod­uct of spin­ning, hy­dro­gen sul­phide (H S) is a toxic gas that causes ir­ri­ta­tion of the eyes, func­tion im­pair­ment, and neu­robe­havioural changes. The toxic gas smells of rot­ten eggs.

Len­z­ing’s pro­duc­tion sites at Len­z­ing (Aus­tria) and Nanjing (China) are in com­pli­ance with EU BAT val­ues and it has also been awarded the EU Eco­la­bel cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. The Group per­forms its re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards health and safety of its em­ploy­ees with ‘Heart­beat for Health & Safety’ pro­gram. It in­cludes in­spec­tions of fac­to­ries, train­ings, and work­shops.

Other harm­ful chem­i­cals for health and en­vi­ron­ment are sodium hy­drox­ide (NaOH) and sul­phuric acid (H SO ). NaOH can be highly toxic if ab­sorbed through in­hala­tion, in­ges­tion, or skin con­tact, and is known to cause cor­ro­sion, skin burns, and eye dam­age to work­ers who han­dle it fre­quently and with­out pro­tec­tion.

On the other hand, H SO is a highly cor­ro­sive, clear, and colour­less oily liq­uid. It can re­sult in ad­verse health ef­fects from in­hala­tion such as a burn­ing sen­sa­tion and short­ness of breath. Ev­i­dence sug­gests that oc­cu­pa­tional ex­po­sure to sul­phuric acid mists in com­bi­na­tion with other acid mists can be car­cino­genic.

Lack of proper chem­i­cal man­age­ment from pro­duc­ers’ side al­lows these toxic sub­stances and gases to be re­leased in the en­vi­ron­ment, thus af­fect­ing the na­ture.

Re­al­is­ing the level of dam­age vis­cose pro­duc­tion has done to the en­vi­ron­ment, var­i­ous vis­cose pro­duc­ers have part­nered with the Canopy­Style ini­tia­tive or signed up the ‘Detox’ com­mit­ments with Green­peace. How­ever, none of these com­mit­ments en­sure re­spon­si­bly pro­duced vis­cose.

Chang­ing Mar­kets Foun­da­tion helped the global vis­cose pro­duc­ers by de­vel­op­ing a Roadmap to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose and modal fi­bre man­u­fac­tur­ing. The Roadmap pro­vides a blue­print for brands, re­tail­ers, and pro­duc­ers to move to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose man­u­fac­tur­ing, whereby chem­i­cal in­puts are cap­tured and reused in­stead of be­ing re­leased into the en­vi­ron­ment (see Fig­ure 1).

The Roadmap is in­tended to help man­u­fac­tur­ers drive the tran­si­tion to closed-loop pro­duc­tion, de­fined as a sys­tem that en­sures emis­sion con­trols and chem­i­cal re­cov­ery rates in-line with EU Best Avail­able Tech­niques (BAT) (see Ta­ble 1). It is im­por­tant to note that EU BAT only cov­ers vis­cose sta­ple fi­bre ( VSF) man­u­fac­tur­ing, but not vis­cose fil­a­ment yarn ( VFY).

The re­port stresses that the Roadmap is not a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme but in­cludes to-do prin­ci­ples for sus­tain­able sourc­ing poli­cies, namely:

1. Brands should en­sure that their sup­pli­ers have all req­ui­site en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mits and com­ply with rel­e­vant na­tional and lo­cal reg­u­la­tions;

2. Pro­duc­ers should in­tro­duce plans for ap­pro­pri­ate chem­i­cal man­age­ment sys­tems, in-line with EU BAT, with the ul­ti­mate goal of mov­ing to­wards closed-loop pro­duc­tion;

3. Mea­sures should be in-place to pro­tect work­ers and lo­cal in­hab­i­tants from ex­po­sure to dan­ger­ous chem­i­cals;

4. En­ergy ef­fi­ciency and green­house gas emis­sion re­duc­tion goals should be set;

5. En­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age in the sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment should be re­me­di­ated.

There are seven re­tail­ers who have signed up to Chang­ing Mar­ket’s Roadmap to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose and modal fi­bre man­u­fac­tur­ing and have also asked their vis­cose sup­pli­ers to shift to ‘clos­ed­loop’ pro­duc­tion be­ing in line with EU BAT. Len­z­ing and Aditya Birla Group (ABG) are the two largest vis­cose pro­duc­ers in the world which have al­ready started work­ing in mak­ing their sites com­pli­ant with the re­quire­ments of Roadmap.

Com­pa­nies set­ting ex­am­ple in sus­tain­able vis­cose pro­duc­tion

ABG’s Nagda (In­dia) unit con­ducts reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing of air and wa­ter qual­ity in ac­cor­dance with Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (PCB) Server. Its Indo-Bharat (IBR) unit in Pur­wakarta, In­done­sia, has all the valid per­mits for the plant’s en­tire en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment sys­tem, in­clud­ing le­gal com­pli­ance.

Both the units have in­stalled ex­haust sys­tems to col­lect waste gas and di­rect it to chim­neys or gas treat­ment sys­tems. There is a gas col­lec­tion sys­tem in­stalled at the re­gen­er­a­tion process, col­lect­ing all the gases.

In or­der to keep their work­ers safe and healthy from ex­po­sure to gases, ABG has pro­vided proper res­pi­ra­tory pro­tec­tion to them. It fur­ther ne­ces­si­tates all work­ers to un­dergo a com­pre­hen­sive an­nual med­i­cal check-up (in­clud­ing in­spec­tion of heart, eye­sight, hear­ing, urine and blood tests, den­tal, lungs etc.).

It also claims to have re­duced spe­cific en­ergy con­sump­tion re­lated to VSF man­u­fac­tur­ing by more than 5 per cent at its units over the past three years.

Len­z­ing’s pro­duc­tion sites at Len­z­ing (Aus­tria) and Nanjing (China) are in com­pli­ance with EU BAT val­ues and it has also been awarded the EU Eco­la­bel cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The Group per­forms its re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards health and safety of its em­ploy­ees with ‘Heart­beat for Health & Safety’ pro­gram. It in­cludes in­spec­tions of fac­to­ries, train­ings, and work­shops. In an­other com­mend­able ini­tia­tive, Len­z­ing has in­tro­duced ‘ Whistle­blow­ing Di­rec­tive,’ through which em­ploy­ees can re­port po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions of code of busi­ness, laws, reg­u­la­tions, and in­ter­nal poli­cies.

Some of the big­gest Chi­nese vis­cose pro­duc­ers are also in the process of de­vel­op­ing their own in­dus­try-led ini­tia­tive for sus­tain­able vis­cose. China’s largest vis­cose pro­duc­ers such as Sa­teri and Tang­han Sanyou have come to­gether un­der the Col­lab­o­ra­tion for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment of Vis­cose in part­ner­ship with China Chem­i­cal Fi­bre As­so­ci­a­tion and China Cot­ton Tex­tile As­so­ci­a­tion to adopt in­dus­try best prac­tices and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion stan­dards in a time­bound frame­work. The Chang­ing Mar­kets Foun­da­tion is al­ready play­ing a key role in help­ing these Chi­nese pro­duc­ers to ap­ply prin­ci­ples and guide­lines as per the Roadmap to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose and modal fi­bre man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Fig­ure 1: Roadmap to­wards re­spon­si­ble vis­cose and modal fi­bre man­u­fac­tur­ing

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