‘There’s no water; it’s only trash’

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A disturbing video of textile pollution in Bangladesh shocked viewers on TikTok.

Fantastic Planet (@fantasticplanet007) posted a video of himself walking down the street in an unnamed city, with the caption, “Trash river in Bangladesh, where your clothes come from.”

Discarded textiles and multicolored plastics can be seen in great heaps, strewn in the empty riverbed between the buildings.

@fantastic_planet007 Trash river in Bangladesh, where your clothes come from#trash #clothes#river #nature #planetearth #savetheworld #fy #fyp #fypシ #fördig ♬ snowfall – Øneheart & reidenshi

“That’s a trash river,” he says, matter-of-factly. “There’s no water; it’s only trash. This is insane.”

Viewers were dismayed. “We are destroying our world because people only care about money and nothing else matters,” one person commented. 

As he flashes the logos of several well-known brands — Adidas, Zara, H&M, Nike — he says, “Probably the shirt you’re wearing right now is from Bangladesh.” 

🗣️ Should it be illegal to throw away old clothes?

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🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

He’s right — 73% of the United States’ imported clothes in 2023 came from Asia, with China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh leading the supply. Of the 52 billion dollars in exports Bangladesh sold in 2021, 44 billion of them were garments.

“How can people just look at that and do nothing?” another commenter wondered.

The uncomfortable answer is that fast fashion has been causing harm for decades without consumers’ knowledge. The damage is multifaceted, with energy usage, the shedding of microfibers, and harmful chemicals in wastewater all posing threats to humans and wildlife alike. 

Pollution from textiles and plastics has even been reported to increase the risk of severe flooding. In terms of carbon output, the apparel industry supersedes air pollution from both the aviation and shipping industries combined.

While there are certain regulations in place, their execution is inconsistent. One study found that treatment plants in Bangladesh only remove 68% of microplastics on average, meaning 32% go directly into the environment, in places like this video.

“Dhaka city discharges about 4,500 tons of solid waste every day, of which a maximum 30 percent is disposed at designated dumpsites — making the water unsuitable for humans and livestock,” Vice reported.

Efforts are being made to divest from fast fashion with the emergence of eco-friendly clothing brands, including the development of fully recyclable materials. Additionally, buying or thrifting secondhand clothes keeps consumer dollars out of the fast-fashion industry entirely.

By attempting to disrupt the industry and create a circular economy, many hope this fate can be avoided elsewhere. But not everybody is optimistic.

“Welcome to England in 3 yrs time,” one person wrote grimly.

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