How your favorite jeans might be fueling a human rights crisis


September 3, 2021

In December 2018, I visited a large dyeing facility inside the Shaoxing Industrial Zone, south of the coastal city of Hangzhou, China. Twenty minutes out from the manufacturing hub, I began to smell it: the rotten-egg stench of dye effluent.

The Zone, as it’s known, is 100 square kilometers, nearly double the size of Manhattan. More than 50 textile printing and dyeing companies stand in huge rows, facing out over the Cao’e River where it flows into Hangzhou Bay. Trucks stream north on the highway from the Zone carrying miles of dyed and printed fabrics, en route to becoming billions of dollars’ worth of shirts, dresses, shorts, and leggings.

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