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How Ethical Are Your Jeans? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The fashion industry has received lots of bad press recently both for its unethical supply chains and unsustainable practices which include making low quality, low price fast fashion which has a very short life span before it ends up in landfill and for its toxic effluent which poison rivers. A large proportion of the population in the UK will own at least one pair of jeans and many people practically live in their jeans, making them a significant piece of clothing whose role in driving the sustainable fashion agenda is key. When it comes to ethical jeans, there is now plenty of choice from brands that are varying shades of green.

The denim industry is one that has much history. Jeans were originally designed as hardwearing work wear but over the years; they have evolved to become a fashion staple that is valued for its casual and well worn look. Often the older a pair of jeans looks, the better, even if it is really a brand new What is Techwear pair of jeans. In order to meet this demand for ‘worn look’ jeans, the fashion industry introduced the process of sandblasting which has been proved to cause fatal lung diseases, including silicosis for garment industry workers. Despite this knowledge and calls from campaigning organisations like the Clean Clothes Campaign, many brands still continue to sell jeans that have been aged using this dangerous process.

Right from the very beginning of its manufacture, denim is causing pollution and environmental impact. Most denim is made using conventional cotton which is grown using a large amount of chemical pesticides. Not only are these pesticides harmful to the flora and fauna in cotton farmed areas but they are dangerous for farmers, workers and those living in areas around cotton fields.

The dyeing of denim uses huge amounts of water can cause significant pollution. In Xintang in China, also known as the blue jeans capital of the world, the water runs blue and black as it is filled with the effluent from small scale dyeing units that are not equipped with any water treatment facilities. The dyes contain and chemicals used to treat denim contain heavy toxic metals such as cadmium, lead, copper and mercury.

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