The huge resource consumption to produce a textile fabric is by far too high and not in line with best practices that are available today. The industry needs to concentrate on the production process, especially when it comes to the wet-process area and the related end-of-pipe situation, says Peter Waeber, CEO and Founder of Switzerland based Bluesign Technologies.
The textile industry is one of the largest polluters worldwide when it comes to wastewater or air emission. And above all, it's still a sad fact that resource consumption in textile production is far too high. However, solutions are already available to produce textiles with fewer resources and there is no excuse not to use them. In addition, the machinery industry offers technologies that can support state-of-the-art process engineering to further reduce the resource consumption dramatically. The bio-capacity of our earth is exceeded and our generation, not our children, has to solve this problem with utmost urgency.
Globally over the past years, the focus was primarily on critical chemical substances in the textile chain - mainly because of the pressure from NGOs (e.g. Greenpeace Detox). Many brands and retailers were criticised and forced to deliver solutions, which led to search for immediate actions. Large organisations such as Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) or the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) were in focus as well. As a result, the ZDHC published a Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) for chemical products that partly fulfils this demand and the OIA started to develop a scheme for chemicals management.
From a Bluesign Technologies perspective, the real problem that the whole textile industry is facing is on another "playing field". The huge resource consumption to produce a textile fabric is by far too high and not in-line with best practices that are available today. The textile industry should concentrate more on the production process, especially when it comes to the wet-process area and the related end-of-pipe situation.
From a holistic approach, there are maybe three main criteria for a more sustainable product:
1) Everything starts with a flawless input - to ensure this a clean chemical product selection is necessary.
2) Maybe the most important point is the process engineering in the mill itself - even with the greenest chemistry, it is not guaranteed that the outcome will be environmentally sound and safe - the process management with an input-stream-management approach is crucial.
3) A perfect management of end-of-pipe is in any case necessary and should be on a level that there will be no negative impact to the environment. Especially in this area governments and legislation often don't reflect state-of-the-art and rigorous enforcement is not universal.
All three aspects together will help to produce a more sustainable product and reduce resource consumption dramatically. This will help responsible brands and retailers in the future to reduce their footprint to make a difference in the supply chain.