5 April 2018

The environmental impacts of textile manufacture and of the clothes on our back is finally getting the mainstream attention it deserves here in Australia. ABC Science on-line have interviewed me for a piece covering all the main fibre groups and the need for a lifecycle approach when considering solutions. Check out the article if you want a basic breakdown on all the main fibre groups and their environmental credentials.

“Most of us don’t realise how environmentally intensive it is to make a single article of clothing, says fashion sustainability expert Clara Vuletich, whose PhD research focuses on sustainable textiles.

“Textile supply chains are some of the most complex of any manufacturing sector,” she said. “When you think about one garment, how it’s got to be on your back, it’s gone through so many different       suppliers and production processes.”

First comes the fibre, which, whether it comes from a plant, animal or crude oil, is almost always an energy and pollutant-intensive process.

The fibre is processed until it can be spun into a yarn, which, in turn, is woven or knitted into a fabric. Somewhere in there bleaches and dyes are usually involved.

Finally, the fabric is made into a garment.

Each of these steps probably happens in different factories, possibly in different countries.

“All of these stages have environmental impact,” Dr Vuletich said.

“And we know that the making of textiles, generally speaking, uses huge amounts of water because all of this yarn has to be constantly washed, it’s going through all these chemical processes to turn it into this high quality, very delicate material, and then it becomes a different colour to what it is naturally.