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UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have impact on textile wastewater pollution research

By David Ellis April 20, 2022

Wednesday 20 April 2022

The world’s research effort into wastewater pollution caused by the textiles industry has increased threefold over the past five years, according to a new analysis released this week in the lead up to Earth Day (Friday 22 April).

The rise in research correlates with the implementation in 2016 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, particularly SD6, relating to clean water and sanitation for all.

The analysis, conducted by Digital Science’s Dr Briony Fane and Dr Juergen Wastl, utilised data from Dimensions, which is a master database of the world’s research and all aspects of the wider research ecosystem, spanning 126 million publications.

Using Dimensions, Dr Fane and Dr Wastl discovered almost 4,500 research papers published over the past 10 years that specifically dealt with wastewater pollution and the textiles industry. The majority of those have been published since 2017, and many are specifically tied in with the UN’s SDGs.

“Part of the idea behind our analysis was to see whether the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have impacted on research into wastewater pollution and the textiles industry, and that appears to be supported by the data,” says Dr Wastl, who is the Director of Academic Relations & Consultancy, Digital Science.

Dr Fane, a Research Analyst with Digital Science, says: “Water contamination and pollution is one of the world’s most critical environmental challenges, affecting both developing and developed nations. It’s well documented that the textiles and fashion industries have accelerated this major impact on our planet, to the detriment of human health, biodiversity, and society.

“Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water worldwide, with the fashion industry producing 20% of the world’s wastewater alone. This is because textile manufacturers use large amounts of water and the resulting wastewater produces highly polluted discharge.”

With China’s water quality now among the world’s worst, Dr Fane and Dr Wastl wanted to see how much of a contribution China was making to research aimed at helping to solve the problem. 

Research revealed that the leading nations publishing on wastewater pollution and the textiles industry include China, India, Turkey, Iran, Brazil, and the United States.

The majority of research occurred in the fields of engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, and chemical sciences, with key areas of research focused mainly on wastewater treatment and related technologies, the dyeing process, and the chemicals involved in dyeing.

Dr Wastl says: “Understanding the factors that impact on the water environment is vital for future water conservation efforts. It is our hope that this analysis will provide some insights into the global efforts to combat water pollution, and to help show where further activity in this area might be directed.”

Read the full analysis.

For more information about how Dimensions can provide detailed insights into the research ecosystem, visit the Dimensions website.

A river in east China’s Zhejiang province turned red due to a high level of pollution from red dye. Credit: Photo by CFP.

Digital Science is a technology company working to make research more efficient. We invest in, nurture and support innovative businesses and technologies that make all parts of the research process more open and effective. Our portfolio includes admired brands Altmetric, Dimensions, Figshare, ReadCube, Symplectic, IFI CLAIMS, GRID, Overleaf, Ripeta and Writefull. We believe that together, we can help researchers make a difference. Visit and follow @digitalsci on Twitter.

Dimensions is a modern, innovative, linked-research-knowledge system that re-imagines discovery and access to research. Developed by Digital Science in collaboration with over 100 research organisations around the world, Dimensions brings together grants, publications, citations, alternative metrics, clinical trials, patents and datasets. Dimensions delivers a platform that enables users to find and access the most relevant information faster, analyse the academic and broader outcomes of research, and gather insights to inform future strategy. Visit Dimensions’ website at and follow @DSDimensions on Twitter.

Media contacts

Dr Briony Fane, Research Analyst, Digital Science:

Dr Juergen Wastl, Director, Digital Science Consultancy:

David Ellis, Press, PR & Social Manager, Digital Science:

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