The textile industry is the oldest and diverse sectors of the world. It includes the entire production process of transforming natural and man-made fibers into finished products like garments, industrial textiles and other consumer products. Textile processes pollute the environment and pose serious environmental and health hazards. Therefore, environmental standards have been established for textile and leather industry to control its pollution.
The main operations of textile processing industry are desizing, bleaching, dyeing, neutralizing, scouring, mercerizing, printing and finishing. These operations discharge high level toxic effluents that cause soil contamination, pollute air, ground water and surface water. Also, it can have adverse effects on the environment in general and human health. Moreover, textile industry is also main source of hazardous waste.
The environmental problems do not emerge only from the textile processes. For example non organic cotton cultivation uses more pesticides compared to any other crop in the world. This causes serious environmental impacts. Natural fibers require more processing steps than artificial fibers. Besides, certain dyes are known to be carcinogenic.
The utmost point of environmental concern is discharge of large amount of waste water loaded with chemicals. Other important issues are energy consumption, air pollution, solid wastes and odors. The main pollutants present in textile waste effluent are toxic heavy metals, bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD), residual chlorine, dissolved solids, color, sludge, used oil, dyes and non biodegradable organics.
With such complex textile processes and the growing concern of their impact on the environment, it was essential to establish harmonized and globally recognized standards for the textile industries. Global Organic textile standards, (GOTS) was introduced which has universal recognition and has more than 3000 certified textile processing, manufacturing and trading people in more than 60 countries. It has adopted standards for processing textile goods using fibres which are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Apart from GOTS, other international organizations have established various environmental standards and measures to reduce pollution from the textile industry. Some of them are EKO sustainable textile standard, Organic textile standard (Italy), Organic Fiber Standards (USA), Standards for Processing of Organic Textile Products (Argentina). The standards set by these organizations ensure reduction of textile pollution and promote use of organic fibers and eco-friendly textile production methods.
There are numerous environmental standards established to reduce the environmental impacts of textile industry. Some general and important ones are- use of natural and azo free dyes, use of organic fibres, minimizing carbon footprint, reduce water and energy usage, etc. The textile industry releases large amount of volatile chemicals and pollutants mainly from coating, finishing, dyeing and printing processes.