Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam are uniting to fight against pollution by reducing hazardous chemicals used in textile production which pose risks to human health and the environment.
The $43 million initiative will support businesses to manage risks to workers and eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their production processes, according to a UN Environment Program (UNEP) statement.
“Employing over 10 million people, the four nations’ textile sectors account for nearly 15% of global clothing exports”, it said.
However, the economic benefits of the industry come at a cost, with the sector being one of the world’s major users of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of approximately 12,000 synthetic chemicals which do not break down and accumulate in the environment, threatening human and ecosystem health.
Wet processing factories, where materials are turned into fabrics through bleaching, printing, dyeing, finishing, and laundering typically use 0.58 kg of chemical inputs for every 1 kg of fabric produced, it noted.
These compounds leak into the environment at all phases of the textile lifecycle, from production to use, disposal and recycling.
Led by the UNEP, with the financial backing of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the support of the Basel and Stockholm Convention Regional Centre South-East Asia and the Natural Resources Defence Council, the reducing uses and releases of chemicals of concern in the textiles sector program will provide technical support and tools for SMEs and manufacturers to improve their knowledge and management of hazardous chemicals, guiding them to manage risks to workers, and eventually eliminate the worst chemicals from their production processes.
The textile sector is a major user of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ which pollute local and global ecosystems, said UNEP chemicals and waste program officer Eloise Touni.
“While governments have agreed on global bans of the worst chemicals through the Stockholm Convention on POPs, value chains still use thousands of hazardous chemicals like PFAS. UNEP is proud to work with governments and front-runner companies to scale up best practices and phase out chemicals of concern across the whole sector”.
The five-year program will bring the four countries together to align public policy on the textile sector with international best practices, including on supply chain transparency, investment for chemical management and eco-innovation, and occupational health and safety, creating the enabling environment needed to phase out PFAS and other chemicals of concern, the statement added.