Sustainability Issues in Textile Industry

Sustainability Issues and Challenges in Textile Industry

Fazle Rabbi
B.Sc. in Textile Engineering
Pabna Textile Engineering College
Affiliated with BUTEX (Bangladesh University of Textile)


The textile industry is the second largest polluting industry. Almost 150L of water is required to produce and process a cotton textile (Samanta 2019) along with the dyeing, washing, and finishing section uses water more than any other department and contaminates on a large scale. Not only this but a significant amount of natural gas and electricity are being used and wasted. What if we continue to go like this and leave nothing left for our future generation? “Sustainability” is a practice that enables fulfilling present needs for people without harming nature and society so that the future generation can take the same benefits. In the context of the textile industry, it refers to an efficient, environmentally friendly production process that uses less amount of water and other natural sources without contamination and generates maximum productivity. It mostly prefers the ideology of reduce, reuse, and no harmful effect on nature.

Local water reservoirs and rivers are being polluted by textile dyeing industry
Figure 1: Local water reservoirs and rivers are being polluted by textile dyeing industry (Image source : CNN)

The European and other developed countries are now making laws on sourcing sustainable textile & apparel goods. This sustainable trend is currently urges for new endeavors to cope with this serious term. Influencing the manufacturers to go for sustainable apparel production considering the circular economy. By 2030 they are bound to implement the above targets that reduce the environmental effect. (Environment n.d.)

The textile & apparel industry comprises multiple departments and production phases. Almost every department of textile industry is facing lots of issues and challenges related to sustainability. Let’s delve into this matter deeply and understand the challenges going on in different departments.

Sustainability Issues in Spinning Industry:
If we break down the sustainability issues of the textile industry into different manufacturing departments, then we can see in the spinning industry a lot of issues are ongoing. First to mention the cleanliness and the health concerns of the spinning industry. A significant quantity of dust (cotton dust) is being produced hampering atmospheric air, due to humidifying operations in the production space it is raising the chance of bacteria and other harmful substances to grow and spread diseases among the workers. Adding to these, the generation of huge waste that is not being used properly later is another concerning issue of the spinning industry. (Kane n.d.)

Unhealthy working environment in the spinning industry
Figure 2: Unhealthy working environment in the spinning industry (Image source : RMG BANGLADESH)

There are more numerous challenges with the spinning industry regarding profit margin, skilled workforce, lack of diversified items, and terrible energy crisis. Governmental laws and other rules also do not favor this industry. The gas crisis is now directly threatening the existence of this industry. It is worth saying that our development in the textile industry largely depends on the spinning industry as it supplies raw materials to varying manufacturers. Therefore, it is high time to adopt sustainable strategies for the future existence of our overall textile industry. Yet we haven’t seen any productive effort both from the industry owners and government to find out alternate sustainable, eco-friendly, and economical energy sources.

Sustainability Issues in Weaving:
Process optimization is not being implemented successfully in many industries. In addition, Inefficient old types of machinery reducing productivity along with consuming excess energy. Noise; extreme noise destroys the surrounding conditions and the weaving department is largely responsible for that. No sustainable eco-friendly energy sources have thrown this industry to the edge. Need not to say, soon enough these issues will go beyond our control. Unsafe working conditions and poor labor wages are issues that cannot be denied.

Sustainability Issues in the Dyeing, Finishing & Washing:
Most challenging issues and risks mainly come from the dyeing and finishing section. One of the most discussed matters is the excessive use of water and outflowing the contaminated water to the rivers and other reservoirs. Different dyeing and finishing processes consume a serious amount of water. For example, almost 1,800 gallons of water are used to produce a single denim pant. (Marieclaire n.d.) Raising concern about the water shortage around the country and affecting the natural water reservoirs as well. Though new innovative technology, process optimization, and using bio-degradable substances may reduce the impact, the industry owners are not keen to adopt those in their industry. On the other hand, governmental instructions on water treatment plants are also not properly maintained. As a result, this phenomenon not only causes damage to the environment but also increases production costs along with poor quality. For a better understanding, here is a chart that shows the discussion regarding contamination risk or environmental impact caused by different chemical particles used during dyeing.

Water reservoirs near to the dyeing industries are being contaminated by different hazardous chemicals
Figure 3: Water reservoirs near to the dyeing industries are being contaminated by different hazardous chemicals (Image source : EcoWatch)

Type of pollution associated with various coloration processes:

FibreDye classType of pollution*
CottonDirect1 – salt

3 – unfixed dye (5–30%)

5 – copper salts, cationic fixing agents

Reactive1 – salt, alkali

3 – unfixed dye (10–40%)

Vat1 – alkali, oxidizing agents

2 – reducing agents

Sulfur1 – alkali, oxidizing agents

2 – reducing agents

3 – unfixed dye (20–40%)

WoolChrome2 – organic acids

5 – heavy metal salts

1 : 2 metal complex2 – organic acids
Acid2 – organic acids

3 – unfixed dye (5–20%)

PolyesterDisperse2 – reducing agents, organic acids 5 – carriers

*Pollution categories: 1, relatively harmless inorganic pollutants; 2, readily biodegradable, moderate-high biological oxygen demand (BOD); 3, dyes and polymers difficult to degrade; 4, difficult to biodegrade, moderate BOD; 5, unsuitable for conventional biological treatment, negligible BOD. (J. R. EASTON n.d.)

How's different dyeing chemicals disturbing the ecological balance
Figure 4: How’s different dyeing chemicals disturbing the ecological balance (Image source: University of Bath)

Dyeing with azo dyes at low temperatures may break down and may produce carcinogens; aromatic amine which is a serious harmful substance. (Poratelli n.d.) Again the wastewater produced by dyeing & finishing processes contains mordant; a harmful substance as well. (Waterman Australia n.d.)

There are still some more concerning issues within this section that directly threaten this industry’s sustainability. Lack of visionary perception and not staying aware of the future of this industry, most industry owners put little care into innovation strategies and are more interested in making short-term profits that might make their business vulnerable. Extreme gas crisis and other inadequate energy sources hampering necessary steam generation for the wet processing industry.

Packaging: We normally overlook this segment. The packaging industry is responsible for garment and textile material transportation, shipments, warehousing, storing, and delivering to consumers not eco- friendly. Almost all packaging materials contain harmful substances like plastics, wrappers made from various metals, aluminum, etc. These are not biodegradable as they have a direct impact on the environment. Using sustainable bio-degradable materials such as jute, cotton, hemp, flax, paper, etc can reduce the environmental effect related to textile packaging and handling.

Carbon footprint; is an important term that is mostly responsible for global warming. Emission of carbon-dioxide has largely increased after vast industrialization in the world. The textile dyeing & finishing industry has a direct involvement in increasing the carbon footprint. It is measured that 1 ton of cotton-dyed knitted fabric emits an average of 7505.12 kg CO2 into the atmosphere during its production. (htt4) The textile dyeing and finishing industry is globally responsible for a total of 3% of CO2 emissions and it is predicted that this amount will rise to 10% by 2050. (Quested 2024) Extremely threatening for the civilization. From the societal and work environment aspect, it is also not quite at a standard level. Salary wages and other employee facilities are way down the level.

Carbon footprint; most concerning issue of the current time
Figure 5: Carbon footprint; most concerning issue of the current time

Even though some decision-makers are trying to implement sustainable strategies and processes within their work fields but they are also undergoing some serious complexities. Though sustainability issues in textile industry is considered as abstract to measure because of unavailability of measurable and applicable key indicators. The complex and long supply chain of textile production raises more challenges in sustainable raw material sourcing. Lack of investment and not having the proper marketing strategy to promote new diversified products to the world is another drawback in the process of sustainability. There are also some threats as such high manufacturing costs, lack of technical facilities, and limitations of governmental support. It is about time to form integrated plans and move forward in the process of sustainability. The main fact that we are talking so much about this term because currently prominent fashion brands prioritizing more on sustainable production, sourcing, and circular economy. So to stay as a dominant supplier in the world textile market, sustainable textile production is must.


  1. n.d.
  2. Environment, Directorate-General for. n.d. “EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles.” European Commisson .
  3. R. EASTON, DyStar, UK. n.d. “Key sustainability issues in textile dyeing.”
  4. Kane, C D. n.d. “Environmental and health hazard in the spinning industry.” Indian journal of fibre and textile research.
  5. n.d. Marieclaire.
  6. Poratelli, Francesca. n.d. “Cikis.” impact-on-the-environment.
  7. Quested, Tony. 2024. “Business Weekly.” sparks-textile-industry-revolution-with-to-dye-for-technology.
  8. Samanta, K. K., Pandit, P., Samanta, P., & Basak, S. (2019). 2019. “Water consumption in textile processing and sustainable approaches for its conservation. Water in Textiles and Fashion.” Science Direct.
  9. n.d. “Waterman Australia.” industry/.

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