Quantcast

Activists Go Undercover to Expose Toxic Factory Pollution

Greenpeace East Asia

By Monica Tan

Last year the Greenpeace toxics team went undercover to infiltrate factories that were releasing hazardous chemicals into China's waterways. Campaigner Zhang Kai looks back on the challenges and successes of the Detox campaign—a campaign that sent reverberations throughout the nation's textiles industry.

Which part of the campaign work left the deepest impression on you?

We spent about one year carrying out the investigation on the textile plants, covering factories along the Yangtze River and in the Pearl River Delta. Our investigators had to work undercover and conceal their identity. For example, we had some workers pretend to apply for work at the factory so they could take photos of the plant secretly, and others gathered information by just chatting to factory workers.

Also, two weeks after we released our report, Puma came out with its promise to eliminate toxic substances from its supply chain. When we heard that, we were overjoyed. Since then Adidas, H&M, Nike and Li-Ning have all followed suit.

Which part of the Detox campaign was the most challenging?

The most challenging parts were the investigations into the production process and the supply chain. This included investigating the effluent from the suppliers' sewage pipes and the precise relationship between the brands and the suppliers. In mainland China, factories don't clearly mark their effluent pipes, so we needed to confirm which pipe belonged to which factory and then we needed to make at least five sampling trips for each factory pipe. This was one of Greenpeace's most complex investigations because the relationship between textile plants and the big brands was often opaque, and it was vital to our campaign that we established the relationship clearly.

What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?

We will continue to pressure the big clothing brands to commit to eliminating toxic chemicals and we'll engage with the China Textile Industry Association, research bodies and the environmental bureaus to promote clean policies and standards.

We look forward to the day that the reckless behaviour of multinational companies no longer endangers the health of Chinese people by turning their waterways into rivers of toxic poison. By continuing to monitor the operations of these clothing companies and their suppliers, holding them accountable to the promises they have made, as well as facilitate other companies to likewise make the "detox" switch, we hope to see a detox revolution move through the entire textile industry.

In 20-25 years time, we hope the entire textile industry will have eliminated the use of hazardous chemicals.

For more information, click here.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pick one of these nine activism styles, and you can start making change. YES! Illustrations by Delphine Lee

By Cathy Brown

Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.

Read More Show Less
Jamie Grill Photography / Getty Images

Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A boy gives an impromptu speech about him not wanting to die in the next 10 years during the protest on July 15. The Scottish wing of the Extinction Rebellion environmental group of Scotland locked down Glasgow's Trongate for 12 hours in protest of climate change. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.

Read More Show Less
A group of wind turbines in a field in Banffshire, Northeast Scotland. Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Beekeeper Jeff Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so. CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

Read More Show Less

tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachel Licker

As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

Read More Show Less