Making China’s textiles industry more sustainable

Today marks World Environment Day, a day initiated by the United Nations to encourage action to protect our environment. In tackling environmental pollution, all sectors have a role to play. An example of such a sector is the Dutch textile industry. In 2016 the sector signed a covenant on making the sector more sustainable. Only by joining forces can SDG-12, sustainable consumption and production, be achieved. As such, the sector is also partnering up globally. As China is a key production partner for the Dutch garment industry, late 2018 a joint Sino-Dutch project was launched in the Yangtze River Delta. The aim is to achieve more sustainability within the supply chain and take the first steps towards a fully circular production cycle.

Tackling the supply chain

Producing a cotton shirt requires about 2.700 liters of water, which equals a two year drinking supply for an average person. This clearly reflects the sustainability challenges of the fashion sector. Besides use of resources, it’s also about the waste being produced, both regarding textile production but also when it comes to the dyeing. When not handled safely, the chemicals in this process can cause serious pollution and affect aquatic plants and algae or crops and soils.  

The three-year ‘Sustainable Textiles’ project launched Shanghai supports Dutch fashion brands who committed to making their supply chain more sustainable. The project specifically aims to improve the sustainability of dyeing and printing enterprises in the Yangtze River Delta region. The Dutch environmental consulting agency Arcadis is, with support from the Netherlands Consulate General in Shanghai, managing the project for the ten involved companies.

With three modules, the project aims to help participating printing and dyeing enterprises reduce their environmental footprint and control occupational safety and health risks.

  1. Environmental pollution control module, which discusses the green supply chain. Topics include chemical management, waste gas treatment, waste disposal and land pollution control. Also, solutions to re-use waste water are introduced.
  2. Energy consumption module which discusses solutions for printing and dyeing enterprises to reduce energy consumption, use of chemicals and water resources.
  3. Occupational safety and health module which aims to create a safe and healthy working environment. It includes on-site hazard assessment and guidance for enterprises.

World Environment Day

This year, World Environment Day coincides with the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development themed “A New Era: Towards a New World of Green Prosperity.” The Council acts as a high-level advisory body and connects renowned Chinese and international experts. The forum is also attended by the Netherlands’ SG of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, Lidewijde Ongering. On World Environment Day she will also visit sustainability initiatives in the area.