'Fast Fashion' emits more carbon than aviation and maritime shipping

BANGKOK: The fashion industry is responsible for a significant share of carbon dioxide emissions, surpassing many other industries, including international aviation and maritime shipping, research has shown.

This industry can be considered one of the major contributors to environmental degradation due to its extensive use of energy, water, and chemicals, along with generating waste and microfiber contamination of the environment during washing.

According to Kasikorn Research Centre, the textile industry has a long and complex supply chain involving farmers, raw fibre processors, yarn and fabric producers, weavers, dyers, manufacturers, and retailers.

Given this extensive supply chain, it is not surprising that the textile and garment industry (excluding footwear) typically emits a high amount of carbon, approximately 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, or about 6-8% of global carbon emissions (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2018). This is more than the combined emissions from the aviation and maritime industries (2-3%).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) noted that most carbon emissions and pollution come from the dyeing and finishing processes, followed by yarn preparation, fibre production, and fabric manufacturing.

Calculating carbon emissions for the fashion industry is challenging due to a lack of comprehensive data.

Major textile-manufacturing countries like China, India, and Bangladesh continue to rely heavily on coal.

Additionally, the decomposition of textile waste in landfills or through incineration releases harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases into the environment.

China, the largest textile and garment producer, ranks sixth in energy consumption. In Turkey, it ranks third in energy consumption, behind steel and cement, with less than 2% of the fashion industry using renewable energy.

It is commonly believed that synthetic fibre clothing is more harmful to nature. However, studies show that a cotton shirt leaves the biggest carbon footprint due to the production process involving fertilisers and pesticides.

Although polyester emits less CO2, it is difficult to decompose, taking hundreds of years. Therefore, both options present environmental challenges for manufacturers and consumers.

Hence, the popularity and growth of the second-hand clothing market is not surprising. ThredUp predicts the global second-hand clothing business will grow to $350 billion by 2027.

Despite the challenges, technological advances such as recycling and the use of organic cotton, which emits less carbon and decomposes within six months, offer hope. However, in the European Union, only 1% of clothing is recycled into new garments, indicating the need for further support and development in this area.

Globally, 100 billion pieces of clothing are produced each year, with 92 million tons ending up in landfills. This is partly due to the growth of fast fashion, which promotes the production of low-cost, low-quality clothing designed to keep up with trends, leading to significant resource wastage and a continuous increase in textile waste as clothes are quickly discarded.

If the trend continues, fast fashion waste is expected to reach 134 million tons annually by the end of this decade.

France is one of the countries addressing fashion waste. In March 2024, it passed a law to regulate fast fashion clothing, imposing fines of €5 per item for environmental damage, potentially increasing to €10 by 2030. This law also bans advertising on all media platforms.

In Thailand, the export value of this industry was nearly $7 billion in 2022, placing it among the top 20 global exporters. The country produces approximately 2,800 tons of textiles and garments annually. The Kasikorn Research Center estimates that Thailand’s textile and garment sector contributes 4-8% of the country’s total carbon emissions, similar to the global average.

Thailand faces challenges with limited data across various industries, including textiles. Thailand should start with the creation of a database using the ISSB system to establish standard carbon accounting, and policies to support the private sector can follow. These policies include:

● Promoting the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) and Bio-Circular-Green economy: Initially, funding or tax reductions to support the production of more eco-friendly clothing could stimulate future innovation.

● Implementing a carbon tax mechanism: Similar to France’s approach to fast fashion, Thailand could start with fines of 20-50 baht per item, increasing as appropriate over time.

Besides government measures, awareness and proactive adjustments by the private sector and consumers are crucial in addressing fast fashion and fostering a sustainable future. - The Nation/ANN

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Thailand , fashion , carbon dioxide , emissions


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