Technologies for Sustainable Textile Production
Exploring companies that are working towards creating innovative solutions for sustainable textile production
According to a comment made by Steven A. Jesseph, the President and CEO of Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) in 2009, “By the year 2050, we will have almost 10 billion people competing for limited clean water, non-renewable and renewable resources, land to grow food, and energy to sustain their businesses, families, and lifestyles. Failure to heed the obvious warning signs will, in my belief, ring the death knell for businesses that fail to read the tea leaves.” The truth isn’t far from this and we are only in 2014!
THE IDEAL TEXTILE INDUSTRY SCENARIO
Imagine a world where all new clothes are made from existing clothing and textiles. Garments unsuitable for reuse would get broken down by an eco-friendly process. “The commonly faced issue in the textile industry is of dead stock and unused fabrics. The most productive innovation would be to develop technology that would help recycle such fabric back into yarn for further development. This would drastically reduce dead stock and relieve the manufacturers of a huge burden,” says Kunal Anil Tanna, a leading Indian designer. Technology like this does exist, where you can make garments entirely from recycled cotton.
In June this year, a group of collaborating Swedish companies presented the world’s first garment made entirely from recycled cotton; a yellow dress that looked no different from the fashion range at H&M or Zara.
A Japanese company, Teijin, has developed a similar technology that polymerises polyester, turns it into polyester chips and then, in turn, transforms those chips into new fibres of equal quality. The result is a new polyester fabric that’s just as good as the fabric in the discarded clothes. According to Teijin, the process reduces CO2 emissions by 77 per cent as compared to polyester made from petroleum. Some forward-thinking high street retailers, including H&M and Marks & Spencer, are paving the way to a circular resource model with in-store collection programmes. However, India has yet to adapt to this concept. In this programme, customers get a discount on future purchases for returning their worn garments.
THE INDIAN TEXTILE INDUSTRY’S SCENARIO
India’s textile industry faces a number of issues that need immediate attention. There are no stringent pollution norms, there is a lack of conventional energy sources and an increased demand for sustainable processes from global brands. Furthermore, there is decreasing availability of fresh water, fluctuating raw material prices and increasing production costs and inflation.
Keeping the real issues in mind, the industry also must be mindful of the new Government’s stress on their economic vision of increasing production, export and generating employment. The Government also wants to improve skill, scale and speed, focus on the ‘Make in India’ brand and the ‘zero defect zero effect’ on the environment.
Textile processors require solutions that are sustainable, eco-friendly and cost effective, while at the same time, meet the demands of the growing and competitive market. DuPont India, DyeCoo/ Huntsman and tech-enabled web platform Sourceasy are among the few companies that are bringing about new solutions that enable sustainable textile production. These companies focus on minimum wastage of resources, are environment conscious and are taking a step ahead to take textile production to the next level.
TECHNOLOGY TO REDUCE RESOURCE WASTE: SOURCEASY
Sourceasy, Inc operates an apparel and textiles manufacturing platform. The company offers a DIY web application that helps merchants to source their private label merchandise from low cost manufacturing centres across the world. Its web-based tools enable customers to create, negotiate, update, manage, and track their orders. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in New York City.
With a solution like this within reach for the garment manufacturers, there is minimal wastage of resources or time and enables sustainable production for the industry.
Offline businesses are functioned independently despite technological advances. But several trends observed by Sourceasy in the seemingly disorganised offline business will make the webbased DIY platform up for faster adoption. Here are some excerpts of trends watched by Sourceasy and listed on their blog.
Worldwide, apparel retailers have been grappling with their ability to accept the new trends and innovative product assortment strategies that fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 and online brands like JackThreads, Everlane, and Bonobos have brought to retail sales.
Rather than do two collections six months apart, stores like Forever 21 and Zara choose to offer a far larger number of SKUs and update their stores twice a week globally.
Zara does an average of 12,000 -14,000 styles a year. That’s approximately 250 styles a week. They also manufacture an average of 600 units per style of fast fashion styles that are inspired by high fashion trends that they track globally.
Technology and mobile data are changing purchasing behaviours. Almost every single feature phone will probably convert into a smartphone at
some point in the next three to five years. With the growing use of software as a service, Sourceasy is able to use the best features of these technologies to create the core of a strong multi-platform working experience that is seamless, elegant and simple.
Pranay Srinivasan, the founder and CEO of Sourceasy, says, “We create custom merchandising programs, with custom fabrics sourced on our clients behalf, to produce orders on demand in under four weeks with airfreight deliveries for immediate requirements/reorders, helping our customers spend wisely and stay agile, even mid-season”
WATERLESS DYEING: DYECOO AND HUNTSMAN
The textile industry has to necessarily take responsibility and adopt sustainable business practices to truly reduce the environmental impact. As the demand for greener and higher quality textile products continues to grow, the pressure on the textile industry to become more environmentally sustainable rises. With technological innovations such as waterless dyeing, the industry has taken a leap forward in reducing its water consumption and environmental footprint.
Huntsman Textile Effect and DyeCoo helped eliminate the use of water in the textile dyeing process, joining forces in October 2012. The collaboration is now set to create more sustainable products which will benefit the industry as a whole.
By using Carbon Dioxide as the application medium, DyeCoo’s innovative technology completely eliminates the use of water in the textile dyeing process. Huntsman Textile Effects is working with DyeCoo to develop and deliver innovative dye and chemical products to support the waterless dyeing process and to obtain the high level of colour performance that consumers demand.
DyeCoo is believed to be the first company to successfully apply the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide process to commercial dyeing of polyester fabric, the most commonly used fabric in the world. Research is already underway to apply the technology to other natural and synthetic fabrics.
In February 2012, Nike announced a strategic partnership with DyeCoo. Eric Sprunk, Nike’s Vice President of Merchandising and Product, explained, “Waterless dyeing is a significant step in our journey to serve both the athlete and the planet, and this partnership reinforces Nike’s longterm strategy and deep commitment to innovation and sustainability. We believe this technology has the potential to revolutionise textile manufacturing, and we want to collaborate with progressive dye houses, textile manufacturers and consumer apparel brands to scale this technology and push it throughout the industry.”
DUPONT PRIMAGREEN® ECOSCOUR ENZYME SOLUTIONS
DuPont India is working with their partners to provide innovative and sustainable processing solutions to the Indian textile industry. Its Primagreen® EcoScour Enzyme Solutions is a step towards eliminating the use of harsh chemicals, like caustic soda and peroxide, in the textile pre-treatment process for medium to dark shades. The enzyme solutions reduce the consumption of water, use less energy and allow sustainable enzymatic processing that improves the environmental footprint of the industry. The solutions are highly sustainable, improving the quality of the fabric. This works at low temperatures, resulting in lesser energy consumption, leading to a safer and greener environment.
With the textile manufacturing industry changing so fast, and consumer behaviour being influenced by technology and a concern for the environment, technological advances in the industry will shape textile production such that it is far more sustainable than it is today.