The fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, due in part to its energy intensive production processes, which exceed those of the aviation and shipping industries combined.
Different fabrics release varying amounts of toxic by-products, both pre and post-production. Synthetic fibres (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.), which are used in the majority of fast fashion garments, are made using fossil fuels. Their production accounts for 70 million barrels of oil used annually to produce the raw material polyethylene terephthalate (PET), before the fabric is further treated.
According to estimates, 262% more CO2 is emitted to produce a single polyester T-shirt than it is for a cotton shirt. One of the most damaging components of PET production is a chemical called antimony, which is used as a catalyst to create the plastic. Antimony is carcinogenic and, although “locked” into the fibres after production, it’s released into the water systems during manufacturing. The use of antimony is equally problematic when the garments come to the end of their life. When polyester fabric is incinerated, the antimony is released into the air as antimony trioxide. As such, the product lifecycle of synthetic fibres ultimately pollutes both waterways and the air.