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Oerlikon Textile: Where ecology meets economy

04
Apr '12
Anyone seeking financial success today must think ecologically, produce sustainably and be efficient and sparing with energy and resources. This trend can be exploited satisfactorily especially in the textile industry, above all in the production and marketing of natural cotton fibres.

A megatrend supports the initial arguments for this:population, industrialization and prosperity are growing in emerging markets such as China and India in particular. The huge energy requirement in these textile production centres pushes up global energy consumption. Estimates suggest that this will rise by around a third from over 500 to 700 quadrillion btu (1 btu = 1 055.05585 joules) by 2030.

At the same time, climate change and related global protection agreements are putting the brakes on the utilization of fossil fuels, resources of which could be exhausted anyway in the foreseeable future. Nuclear power has only a limited future following the nuclear reactor catastrophe in Fukushima, while alternative renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind energy must first become better established economically.

These dynamics are making energy more expensive, causing local supply bottlenecks and amplifying the trend towards energy saving and the use of suitable technologies. Global textile machinery manufacturers such as Oerlikon Textile were quick to recognize this and introduced the “e-save” energy efficiency programme back in 2004.

Machines bearing this label now save significant energy compared with similar rival machines or older product generations. Other innovations are also being designed logically with a view to maximum efficiency and productivity and are market leaders for the most part. One big advantage of energy-intensive textile production is that if the manufacturing costs of a finished textile fabric are considered, energy is responsible for around a quarter of all the resources used including work, production means and consumables.

Cost reduction and sustainability are necessary in the textile industry for natural fibres for other reasons too: in view of the historical price explosion for cotton in the last year, the global textile industry is adjusting to a higher average price level in future. In addition, forecasts indicate that the global acreage under cotton cultivation can only be enlarged to a limited extent due to the delimitation of usable agricultural areas to guarantee the supply of food and water. Both of these additionally weaken cotton in the competition with the markets for polyester and viscose, which are growing stronger anyway.

On the other hand, cotton should and can exploit its attractiveness as a natural fibre better now, because surveys prove that consumers regard natural fibres above all as environmentally friendly textiles, but not synthetic fibres. The sector has already reacted to this. In the space of four years, the production capacityfor organic cotton has increased globally from 20,000 to 141,000 tonnes, for instance. Major textile dealers are now also establishing corresponding eco-labels to a growing extent.


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