How to reduce water pollution in the textile industry

Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally, and the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater. When it comes to producing clothing and home goods, manufacturers’ extensive water use, and dirty water discharge, negatively affects the environment, impacting ecosystems, animal and human food chains and soil/groundwater contamination.

The effects of water pollution are far reaching. According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, one in three people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, and the United Nations reports that almost 1.5 million people die annually due to diseases related to drinking pathogen-polluted water.

World Water Day, set for March 22, aims to educate the public about the inextricable links between water health, climate change and human health. It is a good time to focus on how businesses can reduce the overuse of water in manufacturing and be responsible for the pollutants they put into water supplies.  

OEKO-TEX® helps partners throughout the textile and leather supply chains improve wastewater and chemical management with the OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN product label. The label requires textile facilities with wet processes to conduct a wastewater analysis and inventory all of the chemicals used in manufacturing. OEKO-TEX® also provides an analysis tool called OEKO-TEX® DETOX TO ZERO for the optimization and monitoring of chemicals management and wastewater quality. This practical and feasible action plan screens for hazardous substances and enables the textile supply chain to avoid the use of toxic chemicals, protecting water from pollution and benefitting the people that use the water and wildlife that live in it.

The MADE IN GREEN label also verifies textile or leather products have been manufactured using sustainable processes and validates that an article has been tested for harmful substances, which is carried out through certification in accordance with OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 or OEKO-TEX® LEATHER STANDARD.

While it will take a global effort to protect this life-sustaining resource, the textile industry can play an important role in sustainable water use and wastewater management by manufacturing products with the environment and society in mind. Environmentally conscious consumers can make an impact by purchasing clothing, footwear and home goods that have a OEKO-TEX® MADE IN GREEN product label, which supports manufacturers, retailers and brands in their efforts to reduce water pollution.