According to a report published by Water Witness International, popular fast fashion brands may be causing pollution that has turned some African rivers blue or as alkaline as bleach. The report focuses on polluted rivers in Lesotho, southern Africa, and Tanzania to highlight the risks posed as global brands increasingly source garments from African contractors, drawn in by low labor costs and tax breaks. Global brands could compel better practices, but their presence in Africa has done little to reduce pollution, water hoarding by contracting factories, or even ensure adequate water and sanitation for factory workers, according to Nick Hepworth, Director of WWI and Author.
Researchers discovered a river in Lesotho that was visibly polluted with blue dye for denim jeans. Meanwhile, samples taken from Tanzania’s Msimbazi river in Dar es Salaam had a pH of 12 – the same as bleach – and were taken near a textiles factory, according to the report. It identifies 50 international brands that source or have sourced their clothes from African nations, including Inditex’s Zara, ASOS and H&M, but didn’t tie the pollution to any company’s supply chain.
According to Katrina Charles, Expert-water Security and Quality, University of Oxford, brands can and do make environmentally sustainable clothing, and consumer pressure was critical in encouraging more