Change in mindset is necessary needed to introduce sustainable ways
Liz Manning, Business Development Manager at Catexel, has worked extensively with textiles businesses seeking more sustainable ways of operating in a low margin, technically challenging market that is coming under increasing regulatory pressure.
In a white paper 'Quantifying The Impact of Textiles Innovation:
How A Collaborative Approach Could Help Lighten The Textile Industry's Environmental Load', Liz invites perspectives on deploying more environmentally and socially responsible systems from across the supply chain. With collaborators including a chemist, academic and manufacturer, the paper puts a spotlight on the extent of the textiles' pollution problem and the pragmatic steps already being taken to find a cleaner, greener, more efficient means of manufacture.
As the developer of a series of patented technologies used to achieve significant water and energy savings in the treatment of raw cotton across the globe, Catexel has long worked with industry and academia to identify chemistry that has the potential to make positive change happen. Here she talks about some of textiles' unique challenges (and opportunities) and how looking to other industries can sometimes help spark innovation - especially in a relatively conservative sector.
What do you see as the key challenges facing the textile industry today?
Water scarcity is an increasingly pressing environmental issue. The processing of textiles is extremely water intensive, using up to 200 tonnes of water per tonne of fabric, so there is an urgent need to look at solutions that can help reduce water consumption.
Management of wastewater is another challenge. If the effluent from the dyeing process is not dealt with properly it can cause serious environmental problems when released back into the system. A recent UNESCO report estimated that over 80 per cent of wastewater worldwide is released back into the environment without treatment.
There is a big job to be done in educating the industry around how science can help reduce textile's reliance on this precious natural resource and make contaminated water safe.
What are the barriers to sustainability in the industry, as it stands?
Textile production is traditionally a conservative industry so it can take a long time to introduce new technologies and processes. Our work in the textile industry to date has exposed us to some of the idiosyncrasies and challenges peculiar to this sector that stand in the way of improving the sustainability of textiles.
There needs to be a change in mindset if we're going to successfully introduce more sustainable ways of working.
What have been some of the key developments towards a sustainable future for textiles?
We've started to see positive signs of the industry recognising the need to work together to solve the sustainability problem. Brands are waking up to their responsibility to help tackle the sustainability issue and drive fundamental change in how textiles are produced.
However, it's important we always look to the big picture in sustainability. Sustainable cotton often discusses simply how the cotton is grown, we need to look to how it is processed for it to be truly sustainable.
How does your organisation contribute to a cleaner, greener textile industry?
Our technology is developed to enable safer, greener, faster and ultimately, more sustainable processes to help solve challenges facing large legacy industries such as textiles. Pegasus is one of our most successful products to date, and widely applicable for low temperature cotton bleaching.
Only a very small quantity of catalyst is needed to have a big impact on the treatment of cotton. The catalyst allows for up to a 25 per cent reduction in bleaching temperature and can halve the bleaching time. Customers have also reported reduced water consumption, improved asset utilisation, enhanced fabric feel and lower pilling along with a reduced chemical loading requirement in process.
Our Dragon catalyst is also being used to eliminate the rinse cycle in the reactive dyeing process for some types of dye, resulting in a reduction of up to a third in water usage.
Where do you see the role of innovation in achieving sustainability goals and where do you think this innovation will come from?
Given the traditional nature of the textiles industry, innovation will need to be introduced in gradual, manageable advances rather than a total overhaul.
Innovation can be most effective when you look outside your own industry and think laterally about how solutions that have worked well in a certain application can be transferred to offer benefits for another.
Published on: 18/10/2017
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