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Natural or synthetic – how global trends in textile usage threaten freshwater environments

Stone, Catherine, Windsor, Fredric M ORCID:, Munday, Max ORCID: and Durance, Isabelle ORCID: 2020. Natural or synthetic – how global trends in textile usage threaten freshwater environments. Science of the Total Environment 718 , 134689. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134689

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As the global demand for textiles increases, so to do the potential environmental impacts that stem from their production, use and disposal. Freshwater ecosystems are particularly at risk: rivers often act as the primary recipients of waste generated during the production of textiles and are subject to pollutants released during the broader lifecycle of a textile product. Here, we investigate how global technological and societal processes shape the way we produce, use and dispose of textiles, and what this means for the environmental quality and ecological health of freshwaters. We examine two predominant ‘natural’ and synthetic textiles (wool and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), respectively), and find that risks to freshwater ecosystems vary throughout the lifecycle of these textiles; and across geographies, in-line with regulatory and economic landscapes. Woollen textiles pose most risk during the Production Phase, while PET textiles pose most risk during the Use and Disposal Phases. Our findings show that: (i) both ‘natural’ and synthetic textiles present substantial challenges for freshwater environments; and (ii) bespoke solutions are needed in areas of the world where the global division of labour and less stringent environmental regulations have concentrated textile production; but also in regions where high textile consumption combines with unsustainable disposal behaviours. Effective mitigation may combine technological advances with societal changes in market mechanisms, regulations, textile use and disposal.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Water Research Institute (WATER)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Funders: NERC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 October 2019
Date of Acceptance: 26 September 2019
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 19:58

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