How textile manufacturers are hiding their toxic trail. A new investigation by Greenpeace International has found a wide range of hazardous substances in the effluent of communal wastewater treatment plants from two industrial zones in China, as well as in a nearby river after a pollution accident.

This new research focused on the discharge of hazardous chemicals from two industrial zones in Zhejiang Province, where a high proportion of textile manufacturers are located. The facilities in these industrial zones generally send their effluent to centralised wastewater treatment plants. This practice, implemented by the Chinese authorities in an attempt to make the pollution from industrial discharges more manageable, is commonly used by textile manufacturers and other industries in China.

Many international brands source their products from facilities within such industrial zones. However, identifying whether individual suppliers are releasing hazardous substances in their effluent is almost impossible. This provides a perfect smokescreen for unacceptable environmental practices at individual facilities, including the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals.

The textile industry has an important role in the industrialisation and development of many countries in the Global South, China in particular. Transparency of information, between suppliers and brands, as well as full supplier engagement through hazardous substance use
inventories, is important to enforce policies to eliminate the use of hazardous substances and their substitution with safer alternatives.

Download Toxic Threads: Putting Pollution on Parade [PDF].

Download the accompanying Technical Report [PDF], prepared by the Greenpeace Research Laboratories.