By: Moustafa S. Moussa

Textile processing industry is characterized not only by the large volume of water required for various unit operations but also by the variety of chemicals used for various processes. There is a long sequence of wet processing stages requiring inputs of water, chemical & energy and generating wastes at each stage. The other feature of this industry, which is a backbone of fashion garments is large variation in demand of type, pattern and color combination of fabric resulting into significant fluctuation in waste generation volume and load. Textile processing generates many waste streams, including liquid, gaseous and solid wastes, some of which may be hazardous. The nature of the waste generated depends on the type of textile facility, the processes and technologies being operated, and the types of fibers and chemicals used. The overview on the amounts of waste generated within the textile processes are summarized on Table 1.

Air Pollution

Most processes performed in textile mills produce atmospheric emissions. Gaseous emissions have been identified as the second greatest pollution problem (after effluent quality) for the textile industry. Speculation concerning the amounts and types of air pollutants emitted from textile operations has been widespread but, generally, air emission data for textile manufacturing operations are not readily available.

Air pollution is the most difficult type of pollution to sample, test, and quantify in an audit. Air emissions can be classified according to the nature of their sources:

Point sources:

  • Boilers
  • Ovens
  • Storage tanks


  • Solvent-based
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Warehouses
  • Spills

Textile mills usually generate nitrogen and sulphur oxides from boilers Other significant sources of air emissions in textile operations include resin finishing and drying operations, printing, dyeing, fabric preparation, and wastewater treatment plants. Hydrocarbons are emitted from drying ovens and from mineral oils in high-temperature drying/curing.

These processes can emit formaldehyde, acids, softeners, and other volatile compounds. Residues from fiber preparation sometimes emit pollutants during heat setting processes.

Carriers and solvents may be emitted during dyeing operations (depending on the types of dyeing processes used and from wastewater treatment plant operations. Carriers used in batch dyeing of disperse dyes may lead to volatilization of aqueous chemical emulsions during heat setting, drying, or curing stages. Acetic acid and formaldehyde are two major emissions of concern in textiles.

The major sources of air pollution in the textile industry are summarized on Table 2.


Water Pollution

The textile industry uses high volumes of water throughout its operations, from the washing of fibers to bleaching, dyeing and washing of finished products. On average, approximately 200 L of water are required to produce l kg of textiles (Table 3) . The large volumes of wastewater generated also contain a wide variety of chemicals, used throughout processing. These can cause damage if not properly treated before discharge to the environment. Of all the steps involved in textiles processing, wet processing creates the highest volume of wastewater.

The aquatic toxicity of textile industry wastewater varies considerably among production facilities. The sources of aquatic toxicity can include salt, surfactants, ionic metals and their metal complexes, toxic organic chemicals, biocides and toxic anions. Most textile dyes have low aquatic toxicity. On the other hand, surfactants and related compounds, such as detergents, emulsifiers and dispersants are used in almost each textile process and can be an important contributor to effluent aquatic toxicity, BOD and foaming. Detailed information on the sources of wastewater for the wet processing of different fibers (cotton, wool and blendes, synthetic fiber) includes, main pollutants, volumes, wastewater characteristics and pollution impact is also available.

Solid Waste Pollution

The primary residual wastes generated from the textile industry are non-hazardous. These include scraps of fabric and yarn, off-specification yarn and fabric and packaging waste. There are also wastes associated with the storage and production of yarns and textiles, such as chemical storage drums, cardboard reels for storing fabric and cones used to hold yarns for dyeing and knitting. Cutting room waste generates a high volume of fabric scraps, which can often be reduced by increasing fabric utilization efficiency in cutting and sewing. The following table (Table 4) summarizes solid wastes associated with various textile-manufacturing processes.

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