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Clothing, one of the basic needs of man, has undergone a sea change in the past century. With the inventions of synthetic fibers and a range of synthetic dyes and speciality chemicals, clothing has evolved as an engineered article. Special functional finishes are achieved using a cocktail from over 8000+ chemicals. The new clothing thus produced is fit for purpose.

With rapid increase in population in the last century the demand increased exponentially too and the industry spread across the world, taking production to new emerging countries with low wages. The prices of articles fell, making clothing very affordable. “Fast fashion” as it is called today made clothing so cheap and trendy that today, brands are introducing new styles every week.

Sustainability of such a “take, make and throw” model is however being questioned today and material circularity is seen as becoming the need of the hour.

Since the early 90’s the industry started realizing the harmful impact of this unchecked growth. The wonder chemicals used to produce special effects such as oil and water repellency left a trail of chemicals everywhere. Today these fluoro carbon based chemicals called “forever chemicals’ ‘ are not degrading and are ubiquitous, found in fresh rain , snow and even detected in animal and human tissues. Another challenge is micro-fibres which are found today even in the human body and the deepest parts of the ocean. How this will impact the humans & the ecosystem will be a case for study in the coming years. Today more than 1000 substances are either restricted or banned in the textile leather and footwear supply chain and we still have thousands of chemicals which have not been studied completely. Finally last but not the least very little is understood about the final fate of everything we have produced. What happens eventually in the landfill ?

REACH regulation from the EU prompted other countries to come up with similar legislation. The Indian legislation draft is ready and waiting to be implemented.

The UN today, has drafted 17 Sustainable Development Goals for our planet, to which all countries are signatory.

Author: Mr. Ulhas Nimkar, Chairman, NimkarTek Technical Services Pvt. Ltd