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Plastic To Water Pollution: Why The Fashion Industry NEEDS To Change Its Practices

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Beauty has always attracted the human soul, so everybody tries to look beautiful. It is human nature that everybody tries to look different from others by wearing fashionable clothes and following the latest fashion trends. Fashion trends are changing swiftly and this change has a direct impact on our society. As per research, fashion can possibly become a main reason for the changing socio-economic and political scenario.

Although some people are of the opinion that fashion industry helps the thriving creative capabilities of society, but it also has many negative impacts on our society. Every segment of society is trying to follow the latest fashion trends and those who fail start feeling a kind of inferiority complex. The youth, who are supposed to be the main asset of a nation, are more obsessed towards fashions and their ultimate goal of life has become to follow the unwinnable race of style.

Representational image.

I feel that the latest fashion is diverting the minds of the youth. They are focusing more on fashion than their career and livelihood. God has set a limit on every process of the universe. The secret of beauty lies within the fixed limits, and anything which surpasses the limits faces the destruction. When we adopt the unacceptable fashions and cross the limits we are going to face ruination, because these fashions do not only have a direct impact on our lifestyles and socio-economic system, but they also affect our environment and climate.

Like all other industries, the fashion industry is also one of the reasons for environmental havoc. Last year, a special report was issued by the United Nations in one of its conferences stating that the fashion industry is one of the main culprits responsible for climatic change. According to the report, two thousand gallons of water are wasted for preparing just one piece of jeans which is sufficient for around seven years-need of an individual. The fashion industry uses around 93 billion gallons of water yearly. which can fulfil the need of approximately 50 lakh people.

World over, fashion industries contribute a total of 20% effluents which are harmful to water bodies. As per reports, 8% of greenhouse gases are contributed by the cloth and shoe industry, and if the situation will remain the same, the percentage may go as high as 50% in the next ten years. According to the reports, one truck of wastes is either burnt or thrown every second.

Besides the fabric and shoe industries, all the industries associated with the manufacturing of beautifying and decorative items are equally responsible for environmental degradation and climate change. In ancient times, natural ingredients were used to for face and skin, but nowadays different companies manufacture different types of face washes, shampoos, body lotions, shaving creams and shaving lotions for the same purpose. David Suzuki, a Japanese politician, has written extensively on environmental degradation. He writes that face washes contain minute plastic particles which are non-recyclable and these particles are very harmful to aquatic life.

According to one of the report, 90% wastes from kitchens is usually recycled but 50% wastes from washrooms can’t be recycled which flows with water through drains and rivers and ultimately finds its place in oceans. Further, 27 billion plastic bottles reach the oceans yearly, while more than 120 billion plastic products are manufactured by industries. To our surprise, around 75% of plastic in the world is used by fashion industries. One lac ninety thousand tons of plastic are used by fashion industry yearly, and it is expected that 12 billion tons of waste will be thrown on earth by fashion industries till 2050. According to the statistical numbers of leading environmental institutions, more than 10 thousand chemicals are used in the preparation of different beautifying items but only 11% among them are certified. It is surprising to know that 20% of water pollutants have their origin from textile industries.

Textile industries produce 1.5 trillion wastes yearly. According to reports of the United Nations, 20 tons of freshwater is used in manufacturing one ton of cotton while 750 million people in the world are without the availability of potable water. According to reports only 15% of clothes in the world are recycled or donated for reuse and the rest are thrown as waste and this waste makes 5.2% of total waste yearly thrown on the earth.

Representaitonal image.

Textile industries also use chemicals on a large scale. According to experts, one-kilogram chemicals are used to prepare one kilogram of textiles. 23% of chemicals in the world are used in fashion industries. Most of the greenhouse gases are emitted to the atmosphere from textile industries.

Every year, 70 million barrels of fuel oil are used in manufacturing polyester which is an important element of fashion industries. Silk industry has been famous from ancient times in the fashion world. Every year, 70 million trees are cut for the manufacturing of artificial silk, but only 30% of artificial silk is produced from these trees.

All the above statistical numbers are startling and we are deteriorating our environment in the race of fashions. We are degrading our environment to make our life comfy and fashionable. If we are going to use these beautifying chemical items at the same rate, our rivers and oceans will be completely filled with non-recyclable wastes in the near future and earth will become uninhabitable. Consciousness and awareness are necessary for saving our environment from degradation in the ‘craze’ of fashion. There is a need for change in the business model of the fashion industry.

Textile and other products need to be recycled and reused. Similarly, minimum or no plastic products should be used in face wash and other beautifying items. As long as our lifestyle will not change and we will follow the latest fashion trends, the fashion industry will keep producing items harmful for our environment. So there is a need to change our behaviour and change our lifestyle in order to save our environment from degradation. Above all, the government authorities should formulate strict laws for manufacturing industries in accordance with the environmental protection guidelines. In the end, it can be said that we should not follow the fashion trends at the cost of our existence.

About the author: The author is a columnist and teaches Geography at GDC, Kulgam. He can be reached at rather1294@gmail.com

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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