HOW FASHION IS POLLUTING GLOBAL WATERWAYS
"There is a joke in China that you can tell the 'it' color of the season by looking at the color of the rivers."
Orsola de Castro
As Orsola de Castro speaks these words, deep magenta wastewater spills into a river in China in the opening scene of documentary RiverBlue, setting the scene for a hard-hitting look at the destruction and devastation caused by a largely unregulated textile industry to waterways around the world. With 20% of global freshwater pollution resulting from textile treatment and dyeing, this documentary is a must see.
RiverBlue - Can Fashion Save the Planet was nearly three years in the making and follows internationally celebrated river conservationist, Mark Angelo, as he paddles rivers across Asia devastated by a toxic brew of chemical waste from the denim and leather industries. Angelo explained that these waterways in China, India and Bangladesh, which are now a public health crisis, are devoid of life, even as local communities rely on them for drinking and bathing.
Buriganga River, Bangladesh. Courtesy of RiverBlue
The Buriganga river sits in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a city of 50 million people and home to a proliferation of textile mills and leather tanneries. This river has become one of the most polluted in the world. The tanneries which supply hides to fashion accessory industries use chemicals that can disrupt the hormonal and nervous systems of those who handle them. In the film, young children are seen working with skins and experts have said this has resulted in long term health problems.
"We want this to have an impact on the consumer level. We want consumers to ask themselves, 'do you really need to buy more clothes.' Consumerism is the problem."
The Citarum River in Indonesia has over 200 textile factories along its banks; these factories release dyes and other chemicals into the water, changing the colour of the river and devastating the local ecosystem. It is biologically dead, contaminated with lead, mercury, arsenic and other toxins from many industries, including fashion. It has been called the most polluted in the world, and is a public health crisis with increasing rates of cancer and other illnesses posing a threat for the 5 million local people who rely on it for drinking and bathing. In the last few decades more than 60% of fish species living in the river have died out, causing local residents to shift from fishing to collecting plastic debris on the surface to make a living.
The film calls on consumers to take action by buying clothes that are made in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. "Low cost clothing has a high cost attached to it, one to the environment and public health," explained Angelo.
Learn more about the pollution from the Fashion Industry and find a screening here. You can also watch it on iTunes.