Study: Fashion industry emits 95 million tons of CO2 per year

It is estimated that Japan is responsible for emitting 95 million tons of carbon dioxide a year when it comes to the production and disposal of the clothing supplied to the country, according to research by the Environment Ministry. Per item, every garment’s lifecycle essentially accounts for 27 kilograms worth of CO2 emissions — the equivalent of producing about 270 plastic bottles.

The ministry’s first research of its kind also showed that the total figure accounts for about 4.5% of the global amount emitted by the apparel industry.

“Mass production and mass consumption have imposed large burdens on the environment,” a ministry official said.

The ministry will ask companies and consumers to keep clothes for longer and promote the recycling of the products.

The research aimed to assess the impacts that fashion waste — the trashing of wearable apparel — has on the environment.

In fiscal 2020, the ministry’s estimated figure was based on analysis of governmental statistics and surveys on companies and consumers.

About 3.5 billion clothing items are supplied annually to Japan. A ministry official said the 95-million-ton emissions figure is equivalent to “the emission amounts from a small or midsize country.”

Japan imports 98% of its clothes from overseas, and about 90% of the 95 million tons are emitted abroad.

The situation has also negatively impacted the environment in terms of water use.

It takes about 8.3 billion cubic meters of water per year to cultivate the cotton and other materials that are used to produce Japan’s clothing. That accounts for 9% of the apparel industry’s worldwide water consumption and is equivalent to 11 full bathtubs of water per garment.

The findings shed light on how much water is consumed overseas to satisfy Japan’s apparel industry.

In 2020, 810,000 tons of clothes were supplied in Japan, and households and business entities unloaded 780,000 tons of clothing, according to the ministry’s estimates.

Of the unloaded clothing, 510,000 tons, or 65%, were discarded, and only 35% were recycled or reused via secondhand shops.

A ministry official in charge of the research said, “We want to inform a wide range of people about the environmental problems caused by mass consumption of clothes, and we want to encourage shifting to sustainable quantities of production and consumption.”