Sustainable Solutions In The Textile Industry

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The downward spiral of the state of our environment has forced us to realize that sustainability is the immediate need of the hour. All across the world, both industries and governments have been joining forces to make a move towards sustainable development. 

This being the era of the pandemic, we must understand and appreciate the limits to which humans can push nature before it negatively impacts us. This balance between nature and humans needs to not only be maintained but also gently restored. 

“Sustainable consumption and production are about doing more and better with less. It is also about decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency, and promoting sustainable lifestyles.”

United Nations

Sadly, the fashion and textile industry has been labeled as one of the most polluting industries in the world. Due to the colossal numbers that the fashion industry generates, its impact on the environment can be deeply detrimental. 

The main environmental complications caused by the textile industry include air, water, and solid waste pollution. Hence, practicing sustainability in the textile manufacturing industry has to be the utmost priority in the industry. 

Practices that fulfill the current needs of the textile market and at the same time do not harm the environment are called sustainable textile manufacturing. And five major areas that need to be considered while moving towards a more sustainable industry are as follows: 

Scale And Nature of Chemicals Used

On average, the textile industry employs more than 8,000 chemicals to make hundreds of billions of meters of fabric sold annually around the world. Many of these chemicals are toxic and persist in the environment. These include bleaches, solvents, fixing agents, heavy-metal dyes, and detergents. These chemicals are not only responsible for causing water and air pollution but they also directly impact the health and wellbeing of the workers of the manufacturing units. 

The use of these chemicals starts right from the nascent stage of crop production through the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides., and this continues through the various phases of fabric manufacturing like processing, dyeing, and finishing. 

Around 60% of all fabric colors are AZO compounds that release toxic chemicals when the fabric comes in contact with skin and pose serious health hazards. 

Though it is impossible to completely eliminate the use of dyes and other chemicals, there are ways to minimize their impact on the environment. The first and foremost step to doing this is to substitute toxic chemicals with relatively safer alternatives. Then, manufacturers can move on to the use of natural dyes replacing synthetic ones. 

Organic growth of cotton, silk, hemp, etc. can further help the cause and take us a long way towards sustainable textile manufacturing. 

Even buyers can make it a point to opt for sustainably sourced finished products that meet international certification standards such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Oeko-Tex® Standard 100, Bluesign®, or the EU Ecolabel. 

Heat and Chemicals Being Released 

At almost all stages of textile manufacturing like dyeing, finishing, and printing, massive amounts of heat and toxins are emitted into the environment. The process of coloring and heat setting is usually done at a temperature of 180 degrees which releases immense volumes of hazardous gases. 

A sustainable practice would be to reuse the hot wastewater which creates heat of 120-130 degrees. This will minimize the use of energy while also causing less air pollution, saving water, as well as saving manpower costs. 

Harnessing Solar Power

The textile manufacturing industry has probably the worst track record when it comes to efficient energy utilization. Not only is tremendous amounts of energy consumed, but it also a very expensive process. 

Various solutions have been tried to replace electricity with alternative sources like biogas and wind. But it is solar power that has proved to be the most cost-effective, sustainable as well as practical. Pal Exports plans to be carbon neutral by the year 2030. The electricity we’ll be consuming for fabric and apparel manufacturing will be solar-powered and ultimately given back to the grid. This would drastically reduce the amount of energy consumed and improve sustainability around the world.

Effluent Treatment Plants

On average, the industry consumes 200 liters of water to produce 1 kg of textiles. The wastewater released from these plants contains salt, toxic organic chemicals, biocides, and ionic metals to name a few pollutants, Hence, it may come as no surprise that 20% of the world’s wastewater is produced from textile manufacturing units alone. 

Effluent Treatment Plants or ETP may be the best way forward to save us from a global water crisis. ETPs holistically remove toxins from the wastewater and make it safe to be released or recycled. Installation of plants like ETPs not only reduces carbon footprint but also saves costs in the long run. 

Sustainable Machinery

It is time to adopt modern machinery which has been manufactured while being conscious of the environmental hazards, 

These pieces of machinery not only minimize emissions but also use innovative methods that save energy and prove cost-effective in the long run. 

In conclusion

Sustainability in textile manufacturing is an attractive approach to tackle environmental problems and reduce our carbon footprints. As the demand for fibers and fabrics continues to grow with the population, it is imperative and an ethical duty of ours to ensure that the environment is not impacted by it, 

Textile manufacturing industries need to abide by the four Rs that ensure sustainability – “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rethink”

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