Day 3 — The life cycle of a t-shirt

How often do you get up on a weekend and throw on
whatever clothes come to hand without even thinking
about their origin? How can the global journey of a
simple t-shirt have such economic impact?

T-shirt production has positive and negative effects. Often we buy clothing items to benefit us however no one thinks about the negative effect that it has on our planet environmentally.

Annually we sell and buy 2 million t shirts globally making it one of the most common garments in the world. How is the average t-shirt made and what is its environmental impact?

  • Typical t-shirt begins its life on a farm in America, China or India
  • Cotton seeds are grown for the fluffy balls they produce
  • Harvested by machines
  • Cotton separated by machines and compressed into 225kg bales
  • Cotton requires water and pesticide (2700 litres of water needed to produce the average t-shirt)
  • Cotton uses more insecticide and pesticide than any crop in the world
  • Pollutants can be carcinogenic, harm the health of field workers and damage surrounding ecosystems
  • Organic cotton only makes up 1% of the 22,700,000 metric tons of cotton produced world wide
  • After cotton leaves the farm, shipped to spinning facilities in India or China
  • Machines turn cotton to slithers
  • These are sent to the mill where they are weaved into sheets of fabric mixed with heat and chemicals until white
  • They are then bleached and dyed
  • Some of these contain cancer causing elements
  • Toxic compounds released into rivers and oceans
  • Finished fabric travels to factories in Bangladesh, Turkey, China, India where human labour is used to stick them
  • 4.5 million people employed in the t-shirt industry in Bangladesh alone in bad conditions and low wages
  • T-shirts transferred by ship, train, and truck to high income countries making the carbon footprint of cotton enormous!

Negative impacts of t-shirt production:

  • Enormous carbon footprint
  • cheaper garments and the publics willingness to buy boosted the global production from 1994–2014 by 400% to around 80 billion garments per year.
  • In America average household does 400 laundry washes per year using 16,000 gallons of water per year
  • Fashion is the 2nd largest polluter in the world after oil

What can we do to change these stats?

  • Shop second hand
  • Wash clothes less and dry on a line instead
  • Donate, recycle and reuse clothes

The Life cycle of a plastic bottle

  • crude oil extracted from ground
  • oil sent to an oil refinery
  • oil is combined with energy and water, making many small monomers turn into big polymers
  • millions of polymer chains formed together to create a resin
  • Using high heat and pressure, the resin is melted down and injected into the mould of a small tube known as a preform
  • once heated back up, the air expands like a balloon in a blow mould, and as it cools down, it starts to take its plastic bottle shape
  • We then have a plastic bottle

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store