Plastic has always been known as a major contributor to pollution for water bodies. You can read here, it is not just plastic that contributes to water pollution as a new study suggests that clothing and furniture are just as damaging. According to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology researchers, sulphate or nitrate in water are the main contributors to eutrophication.
This is because an oversupply of the nutrients in the lakes and rivers encourages massive algae growth. Consequently, the water bodies do not support aquatic life and this is what is known as eutrophication water pollution. According to scientists, this type of water pollution is a major problem and has led to over 400 marine dead zones.
However, Helen Hamilton from the university says that food production is not the only contributor. She went on to say that eutrophication is caused by other consumer products like furniture and clothing.
Non-Food Goods are Major Sources of Water Pollution
In a bid to identify major sources of water pollution that are often overlooked, the team employed a modeling tool known as MRIO (Multi-region input-output). Using this detailed tool, the researchers established that non-food products like clothing, furniture, and other manufactured products are great sources of water pollution.
According to the researchers, the rising demand for non-food products like clothing, furniture, and textile is often overlooked when potential water pollution sources are mentioned. They said that the demand for these products alone in 2011 contributed to more than one-third of the nutrients that cause water pollution in freshwater and marine systems worldwide.
Basically, nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous are directly released when farmers grow linen or cotton to make clothing. Furthermore, there are indirect sources like the electricity used to power the factories where the clothing and furniture like recliner are made.
These processes release oxides of nitrogen and NOx that reach water bodies. Thus, the production of non-food products is to blame for freshwater and ocean pollution.
Helen Hamilton said that ignoring consumer products like clothing and furniture will not result in total control of eutrophication. She emphasized looking at the whole picture to address the problem as a whole.
Does Increased Wealth Lead to More Pollution?
The more developed countries get, the wealthier people become. Consequently, this increases the consumption of things that depend on agriculture like clothing, furniture, and textile. This is a major contributor to the eutrophication world.
Another issue is that the researchers note is the complex supply chain for goods and services across different countries before reaching the consumer. This is especially true for traded products. The place of production for a good is more likely to suffer from pollution compared to the country of consumption of that product.
Calculating Eutrophication Footprints
The researchers calculated the eutrophication footprints for various countries using the detailed MRIO tool. They do this by calculating the sum of all pollution that takes place in a specific country and that which is generated in other parts of the world through imported goods.
According to the study, the EU has a high eutrophication footprint because of the number of products imported into the country. This means that by consuming imported goods, the EU contributes to a lot of pollution in other countries. The research also found that China and the US had the largest eutrophication footprints.