Originally published in The Environmental by Mashal Mush on 29 February 2020.
Here’s something that many of you are probably unaware of: the clothes we wear have a detrimental impact on our planet. Yes, it’s true – fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, from its production processes to its end consumer use and disposal. It takes 2,700 litres of water to produce one single T-shirt, and 7,000 litres for a pair of jeans. Most of our clothes are made of synthetic materials like polyester or chemically-intensive cotton. Fabric dyeing also uses 5 trillion litres of water a year and 8,000 chemicals in the process. The list of environmental impacts can go on…
In this article we focus on textile waste from the apparel industry, as leftover fabric scraps or dead stock typically gets incinerated or ends up in landfills where it takes years to decompose. We interviewed a few players in the industry to understand the Pakistani fashion landscape and whether there are any practices around sustainability.
To start with, we questioned Abid Omar from Syntech Fibres about its initial stages of the supply chain:
1. Please tell me a bit about your role in the fashion supply chain.
I work to give back to society, to create awareness and improve the environment. My profession in the textile industry started with technical yarns and fibres that go into carpets and industrial sewing threads. Around 8 years ago, Syntech Fibres diversified into more traditional textiles by introducing digital textile printing for the local fashion industry.
2. What are some characteristics of the Pakistani fashion industry?
There are different demographics across the country. Large malls target the slightly affluent consumer that is more trend-oriented and shops every season. There’s been an increase in consumption of clothing over the years, indicating the start of “fast-fashion” in Pakistan, which is something that has already reached a point of maturity in the West.
3. What has Syntech Fibres implemented to lower its carbon footprint?
Firstly, digital printing significantly reduces water consumption as colors of a design aren’t pre-mixed and washed off with chemicals using excess amounts of water. Fabric dye is only applied to the surface of the material, which is 4 times less resource intensive than conventional methods. We also don’t have much textile waste, and if we do – it gets sold off to secondary markets and to recyclers.
4. Have brands ever set standards for sustainability or made certain requirements?
We cater to the higher-end segment of the market and mainly produce textiles for premium collections where orders are made in large volumes but quality is always top priority. Our clients don’t care about the impact of production processes or have any sustainability requirements. Domestically, there is unfortunately no market or demand for sustainably produced apparel.
As a developing country, Pakistan has bigger fish to fry when it comes to societal or environmental challenges, like literacy rates and lack of safe drinking water – but the fashion industry is something that shouldn’t be ignored when it comes to sustainability, as it holds a lot of potential for the future.
The Environmental also interviewed Deepak Perwani, Koel and RLCC. The Environmental is a part of GarbageCan, a sustainable waste management organization that aims to make sustainable practices commonplace amongst Pakistanis by taking the buzzword ‘sustainability’ and enabling people to implement it in their daily routine. Click here to read the rest of the article.
Photo adapted from Ethan Bodnar on Unsplash.