Why does clothes get dirty so easily?

This is how damaging clothes are to the environment

Tops, sunglasses or swimming trunks - advertised for just a few euros each. In many German cities, low-cost providers of fashion and sporting goods lure with frequently changing product ranges. Customers often leave stores with large bags. Before the International Environment Day (June 5th) it can be stated: Even supposed bargains have their price. They are often at the expense of the environment - and thus also of people. This is shown by examples along the chain from the manufacturer to home.

"Manchester of the East": where fashion comes from

One of the world's largest exporters of clothing and textiles is India. Two cities there are nicknamed "Manchester of the East" - after the former textile capital in England. One of them is Ahmedabad in west India. A large part of the cotton used in the world is grown in the region around the metropolis.

The industry has a whole range of problems: Because genetically modified seeds have become established and have to be bought every year, many cotton farmers accumulate large debts - thousands of them commit suicide every year. The use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers also has a negative impact on the environment and human health.

A woman sorts cotton at the cotton market in Kolkata, India. Source: Piyal Adhikary / EPA / dpa

The high water consumption when growing cotton is also a problem. According to the “Water Footprint Network”, 22,500 liters of water are used in India to produce one kilo of cotton. This means that more than 80 percent of the population can be supplied with 100 liters of water a day. The high consumption is all the more serious when you consider that, according to a report by the state think tank Niti Aayog last year, almost half of the 1.3 billion Indians suffer from water shortages.

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More and more organic cotton is coming onto the market

One solution is the cultivation of organic cotton, which is less water-intensive and in which no synthetic pesticides are used. India is the world's largest producer of organic cotton, although it only makes up a small part of the total cotton grown.

City with the worst air pollution in the world

The other "Manchester of the East" is Kanpur in northern India - one of the cities with the worst air pollution in the world. Kanpur is the center of the Indian leather industry - also an important export good. There are around 400 tanneries on the banks of the river Ganges, which is sacred to Hindus. Believers bathe in it to wash away their sins and then traditionally take a sip as well.

The tanneries generate around 50 million liters of wastewater a day, explains environmental activist Rakesh Jaiswal. There is only one sewage treatment plant. This could only handle nine million liters a day, so that large amounts of untreated wastewater ended up in the river. Jaiswal describes it as a "cocktail of deadly chemicals". Downstream, 2500 hectares of land would be irrigated with the sewage. This is how the toxic substances got into the groundwater - the only source of drinking water for the local population.

A worker dyes cotton yarn in a workshop in Fulia, India. Source: Piyal Adhikary / EPA / dpa

Dirty Transport: How Fashion Comes to Us

Textiles often have to be transported over long distances from the producer to the retailer and buyer. “The prices that are announced for fast fashion leave little room for maneuver to be able to act in a particularly sustainable manner when it comes to transport,” says Markus Muschkiet, head of the Textile Logistics Center, which is part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Logistics and the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences.

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