A report released this week by environmental group Greenpeace International reveals that a large textile facility in Indonesia associated with a number of global fashion brands is releasing a wide range of hazardous substances directly into the Citarum River.
The PT Gistex facility, located to the west of Bandung city, the capital of West Java province and the third-largest city in Indonesia, carries out polyester weaving and processes such as dyeing, printing and finishing.
Greenpeace International says its investigations revealed that several global fashion brands have had a business relationship with at least one part of PT Gistex Group, the company associated with the facility. The work builds on the organization’s previous investigations in China and Mexico.
Indonesia is one of the world’s top 10 clothing exporters, and 68 percent of its textile industry is concentrated in the Citarum River watershed. The river itself is acknowledged as severely polluted.
According to the report, “Toxic Threads: Polluting Paradise,” pollutants found in the wastewater from the main outfall of the facility included nonylphenols (NP) and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), which are used as detergents and surfactants in textile manufacturing and can degrade to NPs. NPs are persistent environmental contaminants that Greenpeace says have hormone-disrupting properties.
The plasticizer and anti-foaming agent Tributyl phosphate (TBP), which is toxic to aquatic life, was also found, as was antimony, a toxic metalloid used in manufacturing polyester. Other substances found included quinolone-related compounds associated with using dyes and some ethylene glycol ethers, which are used as solvents.
Wastewater from one of two smaller intermittent outfalls was found to be highly alkaline, with a pH of 14, caustic enough to burn skin coming into direct contact with it and to have a severe, likely fatal effect on aquatic life in the immediate vicinity. The sample also contained high loadings of p-terephthalic acid, a raw material used in making PET polyester.
Greenpeace notes: “The presence of this substance and the high alkalinity suggests that it had not received even the most basic of treatment prior to discharge.”
The investigation also found that while the general pollution of the Citarum River by both domestic and industrial wastewater is acknowledged as a problem, the full extent of pollution by hazardous substances is largely unknown.
The report warns that “regulation of industrial discharges in Indonesia is limited, and there is little enforcement.” What regulation there is, is based entirely on setting allowable limits for a very limited range of parameters, Greenpeace notes.
The report adds: “The PT Gistex facility is only one example of what is likely to be a more widespread problem of hazardous substances being released in the effluent of textile manufacturers, as well as other industrial sectors.”
Well-known companies that have had a business relationship with the PT Gistex Group include Gap Inc., which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic brands, Marubeni Corporation, Brooks Brothers, Adidas Group and H&M.
“Unless companies like Gap inc., Adidas Group and Marubeni corporation act with the necessary urgency, and work proactively with their suppliers to provide their customers and those living near these facilities with pollution information that they have a right to know, eliminating the discharge of hazardous chemical into our precious and life-giving waterways will not progress at the pace required,” Greenpeace said.
“A crucial next step for all companies -- including the brands linked to PT Gistex Group -- is to swiftly identify all of the chemicals used across their production processes, and screen these chemicals, in an open and transparent manner, in order to identify those chemicals with hazardous properties, both from a health and from an environmental perspective.”
The report is available for download at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/Campaign-reports/Toxics-reports/Polluting-Paradise/