How does textile production affect the environment?

In the textile industry, one of the most significant challenges is environmental sustainability, requiring substantial amounts of water, energy, and chemicals. One of the main issues is the extensive use of water for cultivating raw materials and dyeing fabrics. For instance, the production of a single T-shirt made of natural fabric can require up to 2,700 liters of water, putting a strain on water resources, especially in already fragile areas.

sostenibilià ambientale pratrivero

The excessive exploitation of raw materials is primarily linked to large-scale textile production, favoring the creation of affordable goods for numerous markets. This trend has spread globally, bringing consequences with it: clothing production has increased, but the average lifespan of garments has decreased, contributing to their disposal in landfills, often outside of Europe and beyond our view. However, there is still room for a shift towards more sustainable practices. This article will outline the issues related to unsustainable textile production and the solutions adopted by Pratrivero for the environmental impact reduction and, in general, from the Biella textile district. It is a particularly virtuous territorial and industrial hub with a centuries-old manufacturing heritage that now emphasizes quality in terms of sustainability, product, and supply chain.

What are the environmental concerns of natural fabrics? 

Although natural fabrics such as cotton and wool are considered more sustainable compared to synthetic materials, they still pose significant environmental challenges. For instance, cotton cultivation requires herbicides and pesticides that can contaminate groundwater. Additionally, cotton monocultures can deplete the soil and necessitate excessive fertilizer use. As for wool production, despite being biodegradable, it can have a negative impact on the environment due to intensive grazing practices. For this reason, local producers in the textile industry, a key field of Made in Italy mostly in the Biella region, are taking measures to ensure strict control over the entire supply chain to reduce environmental impact. Pratrivero’s non-woven fabrics, for example, are crafted with special attention to sustainable processes, including the recycling of production waste, which is reintegrated into the supply chain.

How polluting is the fashion industry? 

Textile industries play a significant role in air pollution throughout various stages of production. The spinning, weaving, and finishing of materials such as polyester and nylon require energy from fossil sources like oil and natural gas, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributing significantly to climate change.

The production of synthetic fibers can generate emissions of pollutants such as ammonia and sulfur dioxide, potentially affecting air quality. The use of chemical solvents for cleaning and treating fabrics can also release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere, which are harmful to both the environment and human health.

To address these issues, textile companies in the Biella region, including Pratrivero, have taken actions to reduce emissions. Filtering air from textile finishing processes and treating wastewater before release into the environment can make a significant difference.

How do textile industries cause air pollution

The issue of pollution associated with the textile industry is relevant not only to the production itself but also to the rapid cycle of clothing production and consumption. The large-scale production of affordable garments, often at the expense of quality, fuels the problem of textile waste. These products, with a limited lifespan, frequently end up in landfills after brief use, significantly contributing to the waste crisis. Additionally, the global transportation of textiles (especially clothing) involves substantial greenhouse gas emissions necessary to move finished products from manufacturing countries to sales markets. For these reasons, choosing quality and local manufacturing partners is always a good practice, even in terms of environmental sustainability.

A Sustainable Turning Point

Due to the growing environmental and social concerns associated with the intensive production and consumption of clothing, there is an increasingly strong push towards greater sustainability in the textile sector. This is reflected in concrete measures, such as the adoption of eco-friendly materials and the implementation of more efficient production processes. By 2025, in accordance with the Action Plan issued by the European Union in March 2020 to achieve Sustainability Goals, the textile industry is expected to fully transition into a circular economy. Companies like Pratrivero (an excellence in the production of non-woven fabric in the Biella region) and more broadly, the Biella textile industrial hub, serve as examples of how one can operate fully respecting sustainable practices. Pratrivero, for example, has its own headquarters in areas that are still very green and minimally polluted and is therefore attentive to preserving the environment in which it operates and pursues a sustainable development process for its non-woven fabric production. Actions for low environmental impact production include recycling fibers and energy efficiency, the results of which are available in the corresponding report on sustainable initiatives; focus areas include water resources, aiming to reduce water consumption in production processes and minimize emissions, both in terms of air pollutants and wastewater discharge, as well as optimizing energy resources. An example of the latter is the recent installation of a photovoltaic system at the Valdilana facility.

Such initiatives not only contribute to a more sustainable textile production but also serve as a positive model for the entire industry, demonstrating that it is possible to combine textile manufacturing with environmental responsibility. Emphasizing the importance of collective action among all industry stakeholders is crucial in addressing this issue. A shared responsibility and full synergy with the local community are essential to preserve the beauty of the landscape and the overall quality of the textile district.