Dirty Linen

“One hundred and fifty years ago, the monster began, this country had become a place of industry. Factories grew on the landscape like weeds. Trees fell, fields were up-ended, rivers blackened. The sky choked on smoke and ash, and the people did, too, spending their days coughing and itching, their eyes turned forever toward the ground. Villages grew into towns, towns into cities. And people began to live on the earth rather than within it.” 
    
- Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls

      

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Pollutants released by the global textile industry are continuously doing unimaginable harm to the environment. It is estimated that almost 30% of all global water-pollution is caused by the textile industry. But in reality, the textile industry pollutes not just water, but also soil and air.

Let's begin with water. The textile industry uses millions of gallons of water every day for the various process to treat and colour fibres. The problem, however, does not lie in the high usage alone, it also lies in the wastage and the runoff. Ever since the invention of synthetic dyes in 1856, almost 99% of all textiles around the world are dyed in them. They are easier to use, easier to fix and cheaper to buy than natural dyes, which makes them the first resort for small and large-scale fabric producers. But these dyes have a deadly downside which is that they are extremely carcinogenic if they are not disposed-off in the right manner - and often times, they are not, contaminating the soil and freshwater bodies around the production centres for kilometres. Studies have shown that the effluents of the textile industry usually consist of chemicals such as formaldehyde (HCHO), chlorine, and a variety of heavy metals that remain un-decomposed in the soil and water for centuries. They then slowly start entering the biosphere through ingestion along the food chain.

 

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Moving on, surveys show that, out of all the cash-crops grown in India, Cotton consumes the highest amount of harmful chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers. A majority of them fall on land when they are sprayed over the crops and thus, enter the food chain. A study was conducted to test the amount of metals present in the soil and groundwater located near the textile and tannery industries in Haridwar, India. Results indicated that metals like Chromium, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Lead, Lithium and Cadmium were present in amounts much larger than that prescribed as safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Due to the scale of textile production in these regions, the hazardous effects of the use of toxic fertilizers and pesticides in the farms are found to be the highest in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh - not to mention China, Viet Nam and Cambodia. There have also been incidences where companies belonging to the First World have secretly disposed of large amounts of hazardous wastes by mixing them in with shipments containing fertilizer. These shipments were unwittingly used by the farmers in Bangladesh before the malpractices came to light, causing extreme respiratory and nervous disorders in the children that mixed and sprayed the fertilizers in the farms.

 

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And last, but by no stretch of the imagination the least: the air we breathe. Though the textile industry does not particularly pollute the air any more than any other mechanized industry, we feel it is still worth a mention because industrial textile production setups (very charmingly called "mills" to make them sound less monstrous) are humungous in size and energy consumption. Dyeing processes almost always requiring large amounts of continuous heat for boiling which usually harnessed by burning fossil fuels such as coal or petroleum gas. The effluents from these processes usually contain Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM), Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon Dioxide, Oxides of Nitrogen, Oxides of Carbon, to name a few. These chemicals are suspended in the atmosphere and return to the surface when it rains, settling into the soil, into the water, on crops and on people, causing reactions ranging from allergies to cancers.

 

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We at Creative Bee firmly believe that there is little doubt that progress has indeed crippled us and that the only forwards now is to retrace our steps back - and retrace our steps we did! Our natural dyes are as innocent as the newborn shoot. They cause absolutely no water or soil pollution because they come from water and soil. They cause no more air-pollution than your dinner does when it is on the stove. The excess water from them is full of nitrogenous nutrients which we let out into our organic plantations in Hyderabad to serve as a natural fertilizer. Using the same techniques that were used in ancient times when human beings lived as one with nature, we can clearly see a light at the end of this smog-filled, frothy, putrid tunnel, and by supporting our cause and wearing our products, you can too.