Four textile-producing countries team up to reduce toxic pollution

Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam will support businesses to manage risks to workers and eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their production processes

Net Hero Podcast

The Governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam have teamed up to reduce chemical waste from the textile industry.

The five-year, $43 million (£37m) initiative will provide technical support and tools for SMEs and manufacturers to improve their knowledge and management of hazardous chemicals and help manage risks to workers and eventually eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their production processes.

The four countries’ textile sectors employ more than 10 million people and account for nearly 15% of global clothing exports.

According to UNEP, which is leading the initiative with financial backing from the Global Environment Facility, the sector is one of the world’s major users of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a family of around 12,000 synthetic chemicals that do not break down and accumulate in the environment.

Wet processing factories, where materials are turned into fabrics through bleaching, printing, dyeing, finishing and laundering typically use 0.58kg of chemical inputs for every 1kg of fabric produced.

They leak into the environment during all phases of the textile lifecycle, from production to use, disposal and recycling.

The programme will bring the four countries together to align public policy on the textile sector with global best practice, including on supply chain transparency, investment for chemical management and eco-innovation and occupational health and safety.

Eloise Touni, UNEP Chemicals and Waste Programme Officer said: “The textile sector is a major user of toxic ‘forever chemicals’ which pollute local and global ecosystems.

“While governments have agreed 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.”