Sustainable textiles are textiles (or fabrics) that are grown and created in an environmentally friendly way, using minimal chemicals. Because chemicals are not used in sustainable textiles, there are fewer health problems that are associated with chemicals such as headaches, allergies, skin irritation, and respiratory problems. Let’s look into What Is Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Textiles?
For a textile to be sustainable, it has to be made from a renewable resource, it has to have a good ecological footprint (how much land it takes to bring it to full growth and support it), and it should not use any (or use little) chemicals in the growing and processing of it.
The most suitable definition of sustainability recommended by the World Commission on Environment and Development is ‘meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and desires’ (World Commission on Environment and Development).
In recent times sustainability is a leading characteristic of textile fashion products. Textile fashion companies are focusing more on sustainable products these days so that they can meet the environmental and social aspects. For getting the competitive advantage in fashion business the companies have to take care of social, political and economic issues, and they must be aware of current trends of the market.
Sustainable fibers provide the solution for the companies facing issues regarding environmental problems; these fibers are also favorable to meet the market demands of quality products these days.
Introduction To Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Textiles
One of the more promising developments in sustainable textiles is flax, a stalky and fibrous plant that can be grown with far less water and fewer pesticides than cotton and produced at a lower price. The plants do not require extensive irrigation and can flourish without chemical intervention.
Eco-friendly fabrics are made from fibers that do not require the use of any pesticides or chemicals to grow. They are naturally resistant to mold and mildew and are disease free. Linen is eco-friendly fibers. Also once it is harvested all parts of the plant can be used, making multiple by-products and nothing gets wasted.
Flax and the linen textiles made from it are environmentally friendly in a number of ways.
- Flax grows naturally and requires less water and fewer pesticides than cotton, making it the more eco-friendly fabric. Because it’s a natural fiber, flax linen is recyclable and biodegrade.
- Very little energy is required to process flax.
- Linen yarn is inherently strong, which reduces the need for starching during spinning and weaving.
- Linen fabrics can be recycled into paper and insulation materials for the car industry.
- Flax linen is many times stronger than cotton, which means clothing, window treatments, and upholstery made from linen are made to last, rather than wind up in a landfill.
- The industrial processes of spinning and weaving have very little to no impact on the environment, reducing the need for energy and water and eliminating or recycling most of the waste.
- Dyeing and other processes are the extremely low impact, and in an effort to conserve energy, they don’t use high temperatures.
Sustainable Technologies & Practices Included
- Green Dyes –
- Extraction from plants.
- Extraction from arthropods and marine invertebrates (e.g., sea urchins and starfish)
- Extraction from algae (e.g., blue-green algae).
- Production from bacteria and fungi.
- Processes –
- Cold Pad Batch preparation and dyeing.
- Continuous processing of knits.
- 1&2 stage vs. 3-stage preparation of wovens.
- Combined scour & bleach for knitting and yarn.
- Foam dyeing, finishing, and coating.
- Pad/dry vs. pad/dry/pad/steam.
- Chemicals and Dyes.
- Cationization for salt-free dyeing
- Stable chemistries for 1 or 2-stage vs. 3-stage prep.
- High fixation dyeing with reduced salt.
- Enzymatic desizing and scouring.
- Size recovery and recycle.
- Liquid indigo and sulfur dyes.
- Pigment printing and dyeing.
- Right, First Time (RFT) dyeing.
- Systems, Control & Management –
- Empowered environmental teams.
- Automatic dyes and chemicals dispensing.
- Advanced equipment and process control.
- Various system approaches to reduce WEC.
- Waste Water Treatment –
- Physical, biological and activated carbon systems.
- High technology filtration systems.
- Recycle internal process water.
- Wastewater treatment sludge used/sold for fuel.
- Coloration & Eco-Friendly Bleaching –
- Reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Bio-Processing Of Textiles –
- Bio-processing can simply be defined as the applicant of living organisms and their components to industrial products and processes, which are mainly based on enzymes.
- Enzymatic Desizing– by using Amylase bacteria.
- Enzymatic Bio-Scouring ( by using lipase/cellulose enzyme)– Saves water by 30% and energy up to 60%, less fabric weight loss & strength loss, better fabric quality and enhanced color brightness after dyeing & low TDS in discharge.
- Enzymatic Bleaching – Catalases/lactases for removal of H2O2) saves water, energy, shortens bleaching process cycle, eco-friendly process, and consistent bleaching result, saves chemicals.
- Bio-Polishing & Enzymatic Based Softeners (Cellulase) ETC– Enzymatic bio finishing yields a cleaner surface, softer hand-feel, reduces pilling and increases luster.
- Bio-Stone Washing (Denim Finishing)- Using a special cellulose enzyme instead of pumic stones. Cellulose works by loosening the indigo dye on the denim in a process known as ‘bio-stone washing’. A small dose of an enzyme can replace several kilograms of pumice stones. The use of fewer pumice stones results in less damage to garment, machine and less pumice dust in the laundry environment; in addition, it’s possible to fade denim without risk of damaging the garment.
- Decolorization Of Dye House Effluent By Enzyme– Laccase enzymes produced from fungi like Trametes Modesta or Trametes Versicolo etc as Fungi are used for dye decolorization in effluent treatment which is a major factor for the environmental issue.
Air Dye Technology
AirDye technology manages the application of color to textiles without the use of water. It was developed and patented by Colorep, a California-based sustainable technology company. The process of making textiles can require several dozen gallons of water for each pound of clothing. The Air Dye process employs air instead of water to help the dyes penetrate, a process that uses no water and requires less energy than traditional methods of dyeing, the technology works only on synthetic materials.
Key Features of Air Dye Technology
- Does not pollute water in the color application process. By using air instead of water to convey dye, no hazardous waste is emitted and no water is wasted.
- Greatly reduces energy requirements, thereby lowering costs and satisfying the strictest standards of global responsibility.
- Does not use boilers, screen printing machines, drying ovens, or cleaning and scouring chemicals, thereby eliminating major sources of pollution.
- Eliminates water in the color application step and simplifies the process, creating revolutionary possibilities of new industry and employment in unfarmable, arid regions of the world.
- Gives consumers a way to choose style and sustainability at a realistic price at the point of purchase, thereby initiating world change.
Why Need Of Other Alternatives
Cotton is the textile fiber most used in upholstery fabric manufacturing, with a market share of 49 percent of the total market in 1995. The fast-growing population will generate an increasing demand for textile fibers, especially for cotton, but there is no supplementary land available for cotton cultivation.
The disparity between cotton demand and supply can be reduced by using chemical fibers, but the production of synthetic fibers depends on non-renewable petroleum resources. Furthermore, there is a clear consumer preference for natural fibers due to their comfort and soft hand.
Taking into account the limited land areas for cotton cultivation, the increased environmental public awareness and the consumer preference for natural fibers, there is a huge opportunity for other natural cellulosic fibers, namely bast fibers, as alternatives to cotton.