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Ensuring Chemical sustainability in textile value chain

The textile and apparel industry uses about 8000 chemicals at numerous manufacturing phases, and most of it ends up in the environment in various ways. The pollution level is too high with contaminating the natural water bodies due to indiscriminate discharge and inadequate management. With a global population of around 7 billion and an average of 7 kg/person clothing consumption – due to the fast-fashion concept – the chemical usage is to the tune of 5 billion kilograms. And this market growing fast. According to Allied Market Research, the textile chemical market is expected to reach $27.560 billion by the end of 2022.

Ensuring-Chemical-sustainability-textile
Figure: To make the industry more sustainable textile and apparel businesses need to ensure to be keen to transform existing methods.

At the same time, an additional problem the world faces is the safe disposal of used clothes, as 90% of the dyes and chemicals that are on the fabrics end up in landfills where it degrades over time and trickles down to the same waterbodies that the world is trying to preserve.

The textile and apparel supply chain has numerous platforms to ensure chemical sustainability to some extent. The textile industry has numerous initiatives to control the use and discharge of hazardous chemicals in their supply chain, such as bluesign®, Restricted Substances List (RSL) and the recent ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) Program, which was a response to the Greenpeace ‘Detox’ campaign.

An accountable textile products industry ensures the safety and a clean atmosphere, thus safeguarding a long-term business model for all involved companies.

Textile chemical providers need to ensure collaboration with supply chain partners. As without this cooperation, transformation cannot occur in the value chain.

Safe chemistry in textile processing essentially has a guarantee of safety for people and the environment with the lessening of water feeding, chemical, and energy consumption. Along with reducing air/water/soil pollution.

Sustainable chemistry in the textile value chain can play a vivacious role in sustainable growth in textile processing evading harmful chemicals. A safe chemical management system can safeguard sustainable chemistry in the textile processing industries.

Long-term sustainable chemistry solutions

Also, along with these initiatives, long-term sustainable chemistry solutions will be the way forward for the textile industry to sort out these problems. These could be in terms of use of bio-waste sources (such as Earth Colors from Archroma), biodegradable chemicals (such as Clay), or techniques such as Digital coloration, where there is no water usage or waste discharge.

Some of the initiatives chemical companies are taking to ensure sustainability are:

  • Replacing dyes with digital printing, significantly reducing water usage and waste
  • Huntsman – a key dye supplier – produced a line of reformulated dyes free from hazardous chemicals
  • Developing pretreatment that strengthens the bond between dyes and cotton fibers, thus reducing the amount of dye and other chemicals required
  • Some denim manufacturers are implementing measures to reuse wastewater
  • Using finishes which decrease washing requirements and increase the life-cycle of the final garment
  • Following guidelines set out by industry standards and labeling products clearly, enabling informed consumer decisions

To make the industry more sustainable textile and apparel businesses need to ensure to be keen to transform existing methods. This will likely mean investing time and resources to evaluate and revamp present practices.

The transformation will not happen instantly, but result in investment will arise once the right tools and processes are in place.

Textile chemical providers need to ensure collaboration with supply chain partners. As without this cooperation, transformation cannot occur in the value chain.

At the same time, everybody involved needs thorough communication with the supply chain to see how everybody involved can implement and profit from more sustainable chemical practices.

Gaining superior supply chain perceptibility is the key to any platform ensuring safe chemicals in the textile sector. Gathering data about direct and indirect suppliers, facilities, and practices to guarantee the supply chains comply with new chemical management practices.

The transparency in the supply chain can benefit to identify the source and ensure compliance at all tiers.

Thus, paving the way forward for more sustainable chemical use in the textile and apparel industry and businesses along the whole value chain need to be willing to lead the way.

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