Perspective of age old days: population was less, needs were few and resources were abundant. The generation of waste was such that it got naturally recycled, being mostly biodegradable. Conversely, after the advent of industrial revolution, different types of wastes came into existence which are often both non-biodegradable and highly hazardous. Production is always associated with some form of pollution and in specific cotton cultivation, production and processing, releases various types of waste at every level.
Reports illustrate that, among the total waste from textile, the largest part comes from the spinning mills, most particularly the blow room. Spinning is one of the vital industries of India and the 4000 ginning factories around the country produce considerable amount of waste during cotton ginning operation. Most of the mills, recover the useful short fibers from the blow room waste by passing them through willow machines, that inturn leaves a non resalable residue called "willow waste." The scope of the waste from cotton industry extends its products to upholstery cloth, curtain cloths, cover cloths, blanket, towels, shirting, quilts, underwear, carpet, industrial roller cloth, electric cabling, hosiery and in the manufacture of asbestos yarn, paper, linoleum, plastic and regenerated fibers. Focusing on willow waste, it is too short a fiber, to be used for any textile application and thus disposed off in the landfills. An investigation report denotes that, the total amount of willow waste generated in India is about 80, 000 to 85, 000 tons per annum, and this obviously needs proper treatment apart from disposal as landfill.
A survey report states that 1% of American landfill space was occupied by disposable diapers which take up to 500 years to decompose. Such waste discarded in landfills has no resale value and in addition to polluting the atmosphere, if not degraded, they get accumulated and spread infectious diseases and foul odour. An increasing amount of waste is generated every year from the production and use of textiles and in reality the rate of recycling in textiles, is not very high which is an issue to look forward. For economic and environmental reason, it is becoming increasingly necessary to recycle as much as possible. At the least 50% of the textiles that one throws away are recyclable, but in practical only 25% of wastes are recycled. An outlook on the future market of textiles summit that India is expected to grow around 3-5% in the area of disposals, sequentially that will increase such disposal in landfills. Everyday many researches are being done to innovate new products and technologies but not many focus on the reclaim or a better alternative of used up and waste textiles that is either incinerated (burnt) or discarded in the landfills.
A researcher in India found that one particular type of non-reusable waste, namely willow waste can be processed to become compost that can enable organic cotton to a viable enterprise. The research work aimed at biomanaging cotton waste by means of a three tier system of enzyme-earthworm-microbe interaction. Pretreatment and enzymatic treatment of the willow waste was done to enhance good growth of earthworms. The resultant compost, without addition of any other activators was purely textile compost, with a very good source of carbon, with appreciable amount of NPK. The parameters and their values were pH 7.20, Electrical conductivity EC 1.85 dS/m, Total nitrogen 0.62%, Total phosphorous 0.35%, Total potassium 0.52%, Organic carbon 12.1%, Copper 180 mg/kg, Zinc 210 mg/kg, Iron 35 mg/kg and Manganese 12 mg/kg respectively.
On addition of cellulose degraders, nitrogen fixers and phosphate stabilizers the compost can be converted into rich source of textile compost as biofertiliser. This is an effective technology for managing solid organic wastes made of textiles, into a highly beneficial and valuable compost, that can be used as a supplement to increase soil fertility, by creating home for millions of microorganisms with an additional benefit of reducing the toxicity of the wastes. Subsequently, in order to study the efficiency of the prepared willow waste biocompost, pot culture study was carried out for plants with short life span namely marigold, ladys finger and green gram dhal. Considering the threat of pesticides on cotton cultivation, cotton plant was selected as one among the four the plants for pot culture study. The results were highly commendable. Farmers as well as industrialist have to be educated properly about the industry byproducts and their effective utilisation. Producing such value added products will obviously help the farmers in getting additional income and also in meeting the raw material requirement of the industry.
On a general note, Textile is one of the industry that exorcise maximum pollution to mother nature and the recent buzz is the abuse of chemicals, in the form of fertilizers and pesticides, that has caused a downbeat on the health of animals, human and the general ecological balance as well, apart from the fact that they are very pricey. Also, Cotton production alone uses about 25% of the worlds insecticides. Large quantities of chemicals are being used to increase the production and productivity, with a least concern about the harmful effects induced onto the next generation. The WHO report points out, that every year 20,000farmers die because of insecticides and their harmful effects. Cotton being a very fertilizer dependant crop, has an undisclosed fact: that 65% of the chemicals used during cultivation enter both directly and indirectly into our food chain, which is highly agonizing. Undoubtedly, the manure castings excreted by worms, the so called vermicompost is a very effective biofertiliser, which has a high content of readily available minerals for plant growth which can be an enormous relief to the above discussed hitch.