In the middle of Central Asia, on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world. Today, of its original surface, only a paltry 10% remains. The rest has turned into swamps, marshes and an arid plain impregnated with saline deposits and toxic substances. The Aral Sea represents one of the most tragic ecological disasters caused by man. Its drying up has devastated entire ecosystems, the climate of the region has been disrupted, economic sectors such as fishing have been eliminated. The winds blow on the sandy crust that was once the bottom of a fish-filled lake and raise poisonous dust that makes human settlement around the old basin impossible, reaching as far as the Himalayas.

Intensive crops

A disaster of this magnitude has a culprit: cotton.
In the 1960s, the Soviet government decided that the USSR should become the world's leading producer of cotton. The poor fertility of the desert plains required the massive use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which, washed away by the rains, accumulated in the reservoir.
Irrigation channels were created to transform the Central Asian steppe into arable fields. that stole water from the tributaries of the Aral. Deprived of water supply, the immense lake evaporated.

Today, attempts to restore the Aral Sea collide with the immense demand for cotton for the fast fashion industry. The nations affected by the passage of the tributaries of the Aral Sea: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan are in fact pursuing the intensive cultivation of low cost and high environmental impact cotton.

Fast fashion

Shapes, colors, decorations of clothing change from year to year, often from season to season. Fashions change quickly, and they age even faster, unable to interest an audience with an ever lower threshold of attention for a long time.
The industry that responds to this voracious market demand needs a constant influx of raw materials . It is supplied by the intensive cultivation of short-fiber cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), often genetically modified to adapt to less than ideal development conditions. Short-staple cotton grows and matures rapidly even in the vast Asian plains that need constant artificial irrigation. The poor quality of short fiber cotton fabrics turns into clothes that have to last a short time. After a few washes, they deform, lose their shape, become covered with unsightly pellets or become stretched. But who cares, so very soon they will go out of fashion and will be replaced with the models of the following season. Many big names are now also subject to this vicious circle. At one time the garments of the most famous fashion houses were a guarantee not only of style and innovation, but also of the quality of the materials, workmanship and finishes that could only be obtained in certain production districts. This has not been the case for many years. With globalization, less and less expensive raw materials travel from one end of the globe to the other on polluting cargo ships, chasing the lowest cost of labor for each specific process in spite of quality.

Synthetic fibers

It certainly doesn't go better with garments made of artificial fibers that can have an even more devastating impact on the environment.
When you see an image of a beach defaced by bottles and bags or you read about the gigantic garbage island that has formed in the Pacific Ocean, keep in mind that that is but a tiny percentage of the synthetic materials that pollute the sea . More than 90% of the plastic dispersed in the oceans is made up of micro and nanoplastics. Particles and fibers between 5 mm and 100 nm in thickness. Almost 200 million kilos a year of these microscopic particles, between 30 and 35% of all plastic pollution of the seas, come from the washing of clothing made of petroleum-based fabrics: acrylics, polyester, polyethylene, polyamide. The friction caused by washing machines causes the detachment of microscopic plastic particles which, through the drain pipes, end up in the surface water. Their presence is ubiquitous, there is no corner of the earth that is without it. And they are destined to last for centuries.
The situation is aggravated by heavy metals, antioxidants and other chemicals present in dyes, fire retardants and waterproofing treatments, which synthetic fibers are often impregnated with and which can be released into the environment.
The particles of more microscopic size enter the food chain, are easily absorbed by marine organisms and accumulate in vital tissues and organs, reaching human consumption. We now suffer chronic and constant exposure to microplastics, the long-term effects of which are still poorly known and studied.
At sea, a polyamide fabric takes 30 to 40 years to dissolve. One in polyethylene up to 450 years. A wool sweater takes from 1 to 5 years to break down into elementary molecules. A cotton T-shirt dissolves completely after 2-5 months.

Quality and sustainability

IT 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60
A (cm.) 62 63 65 67 68.5 70.5 72 73.5 75 76
B (cm.) 44.5 46 47.5 49.5 51.5 53.5 55 57 59 61