Projects & Industry Impact
Textile production is responsible for around 20% of global water pollution and 10% of global carbon emissions
Textiles and clothing is a diverse sector that plays a significant role in the manufacturing industry. The textile market demand is growing each year, with an expected reach of $760.21 billion in 2026 at a CAGR of 7.2%. It also has the fourth-highest impact on the environment out of all categories on EU consumption.
The production of raw materials is responsible for a significant portion of the environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry. According to the 2021 Textile Exchange report, the global production of fibre doubled from 58 million tonnes in 2000 to 111 million tonnes in 2019. Synthetic fibres accounted for 62% of global fibre production in 2020. The proportion of sustainable fibres referred to as 'preferred fibers' accounted for less than a fifth.
Processing and garment production
Spinning raw materials into yarns, weaving them into fabrics, and applying finishing techniques such as dyeing or giving fabrics strength and shine are energy-intensive processes in which large amounts of water and chemicals are used.
Dyeing can require up to 150 litres of water per kilogram of fabric and wastewater is often discharged unfiltered into waterways in developing countries. The production of garments uses a significant amount of energy for sewing, gluing, welding and seam taping equipment. The cut-offs that are left after clothes' pattern cutting is also responsible for around 20% of the industry's fabric waste.
Environmental impacts in the consumption phase within the clothes lifecycle arise from the water, energy, and chemicals used in washing, tumble-drying, and ironing the clothes as well as the microplastics shed into the water. This phase is especially detrimental in terms of freshwater and marine pollution.
Transport and distribution
Most textile raw materials and final products are imported into the EU, implying long delivery routes. However, this phase accounts for merely 3 % of total industry impacts. The relatively low impact is arguably a result of most large business actors optimizing the flow of goods. However, in recent years, the issue on the environmental impact due to the rise in online shopping, the related increases in home deliveries, and the proliferation of returns had gained attention.
Reliable and recent data on clothes' end-of-life are not readily available, as there are currently no requirements for a separate collection of clothes or for measuring and reporting it. A separate collection of clothes will become mandatory in the EU in 2025