Textiles In An Environmental Perspective


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The article discusses various procedures of textile production that affect the environment and how to protect environment by taking effective measures.

Many countries of the world are undergoing grave environmental troubles and the reason is their fast growing industry. This is a very common situation where industrial units of textile, dyeing, leather tanning, paper and pulp procession, sugar production are flourishing in huge masses and discharging pollution. These industries emit waste matter in great amount and that waste causes dangerous effluence of surface water wealth, ground water and soils and finally afflicts the living of the people. Normally, these industrial factories are being operated in small or medium levels with high employment creation and foreign exchange potential. But the system of controlling pollution in these factories is very poor. In developing countries, the pollution controlling departments have a merciful eye on industries because of its socio-economic charities and low investment strength towards pollution control. Regrettably, this attitude deters the industries to launch successful pollution control either through efficient sewage solution or by adopting the manufacturing mode through cleaner production machineries.

Usually textiles go through various different treatments, conducted by different industrial units. Each treatment influences environmental impacts and product performance. The selection of fabric type decides the types of dye and dye processes to be applied. The property of dye is closely associated with the useful durability of the garment. Demands of fashion by consumers make the scene complicated; demands of colours that need more chemicals when being fixed may have unintentional environmental effects. Choice of the best fashion or material is not essential to redesign ecology; but we should minimise the environmental impacts of all items while sticking to their meaning and market potential.

Sustainable Design

Fashion is a fascinating industry and since eco-friendly clothing has been ‘in vogue’ for a few years, it may not be as common as it was. This fashion hype has given birth to a new concept of clean and green textile that has great impact on environment.

What designers are expected to do to diminish the environmental pollution generated by wastewater?

By asking questions, designers must have full knowledge of theoretical, technical and practical importance of the whole manufacturing procedure of an item.

They should form a co-ordination with technologists, scientists, farmers, producers and marketing sections.

Know the performance and aesthetic features, which are the primary needs of any consumer

Understand the method that consumer applies to use the product.

Life-cycle assessment

Water pollution, waste and utilization of resources are some of the supreme environmental hazards of the textile industry.

An evaluation of environmental influences is one of the first measures in environmental design. And the life-cycle assessment is the most useful tools for this; life cycle assessment (LCA), which is a method for examining the environmental influences related with a product or service.

The exact area of life-cycle management stresses the significance of the product design stage in the life cycle. From its most common expression as the product life cycle, to the market life cycle, and later the upswing to eminence of the environmental life cycle, the life-cycle term has a crucial performance in many management branches. Other related terms like integrated chain management, closed-loop supply chains, green supply chain management and industrial ecology, which all directly or indirectly apply the life-cycle term, has inflated the complication and extent of concerns around lifecycle management.

It is important to know the entire life cycle of textiles to examine the environmental influences of textiles. The life cycle of textiles involves growing and processing the fibre, manufacturing the yarn, manufacturing the fabric, dyeing and finishing, cutting and making the final product, maintaining the product during use and disposal or recycling.

Environmental impacts have their presence at the every phase of the life cycle of textiles. The textile industry discharges waste in plenty and utilises large volume of energy and water. Manufacturing, colouring and finishing of one kilogram of textiles can consumer approximately 200 litres of water.

During the several phases of manufacturing, fibres and uses, the amount of environmental impact fluctuates. While cotton has a large environmental impact during its making, synthetic or manufactured textiles use huge quantity of energy during production. Since clothes required to be laundered, the environmental impact related to clothing is notable during the ‘use’ period, while, for furniture and interior textiles, the greatest impact likely to occur during the ‘production’ period.

Let us now consider in brief the environmental impact of textiles. We will talk about pollution generated during the production of natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

How Natural fibres influence Environment

Fibre Growth relocates land for crops, removes nutrients from soil, pollutes soil and water by using chemicals like pesticides, biocides and herbicides, damages crop strain and consumes energy and water, which are limited in amount.

Harvesting procedure uses chemical like defoliants, which are carried by air. They are dangerous to human health while breathing. It also considerably uses chemical defoliants and fuel-powered equipment.

Production Cleaning applies harmful and strong chemicals. Water is contaminated by detergents, soaps and bleaches. Other dangers are waste to landfill, by-product lanolin from wool polishing, chemicals and fuel releases and noise and dust are generated.

Spinning creates dust and noise; moreover, if loose fibres are breathed in, it can badly affect our respiratory system. What is more, it oozes out poisonous smokes and also releases solid waste like cones and pallets.

Fabric Production consumes unlimited resources; raises dust and noise, discharges smokes from chemicals and uses energy and water, which are limited reserve.

Finishes gives birth to toxic by-products and gases from chemicals, metals, dyes and resins. VOCs are emanated from fabric and garment. Others are treatment dangers and storage of waste, i. e. used dye. It uses energy and water, which are limited sources.

The procedure of Garment Production generates waste from off-cuts, dust; workers are prone to health perils by treating fabric and other processed products. Chemical residues from the application of finishes, dry cleaning uses chemicals, solid waste like packaging, inks, plastics and hangers are also dangerous.

Process of Distribution pollutes the air with fuel, which is not an infinite supply for distribution.

When Consumer Uses and discards the product, they are bound to generate solid waste like packaging; due to chameleonic fashion codes, surplus use produces solid waste. Moreover, waste carbonisation and dumps emit poisonous materials. Caring products also add to water pollution by washing, ironing and dry cleaning garments; this process consumes more energy and chemicals.

How Synthetic fibres influence Environment

Fibre eats limited valuable sources like petroleum, coal and oil. The reason of more pollution is our inability of removing toxic by-products, which require proper treatment and landfill. Fibres, which need to be stored safely for a long time, generate toxic chemicals that pollute air, water and land and thereby deteriorating our health when we breathe the nasty smell of pollutants.

Unsafe to health, Spinning process employs chemicals for all finishes, (which comprise delustering, anti-static) size resins and dyeing. Spinning uses ample quantity of water, heat and energy and throws out toxic by-products emanating from fabrics and garments.

Fabric Production, using limited reserve, produces more textile off-cuts; it is also injurious to health because smokes are fired up while treating textiles.

Process of Finishes expels noxious by-products and gases from chemicals, metals, dyes and resins; since fabric and garment emanate VOCs, the treatment of this process is very dangerous. The process contaminates air and uses scanty sources like water, fuel and energy.

Garment Production process curses us by spitting solid waste like packaging, inks, cut-offs, plastics and hangers. The application of finishes leaves chemical remains; dry cleaning uses chemicals.

Distribution uses very precious and scanty sources like fuel and poisons the air.

Use and Disposal by Consumer

Synthetic fibres are more dangerous because it cannot be recycled. This waste burns toxic emissions; moreover, rapidly changing fashion styles consume synthetic fibres in excess. Solid waste like non-biodegradable textiles is generated by this fibre. Synthetic fibre finishes contaminate soil and water by percolation. It is unwise to care such products since washing, ironing and cleaning result in water pollution and such processes consume much energy.

Water consumption and wastewater removal

The textile industry produces wastewater in bulk. It uses chemicals in the production phases like preparation, dyeing, finishing and slashing. Though Australian industry has many dyeing and finishing amenities that still struggle to cope with existing limits, it has built up and realised wastewater treatments. Environmental issues are linked with the use of chemicals and heavy metals, and issues of salts and the appropriateness of biodegradable surfactants in wastewater. When people come to know about such environmental perils, these needs will become more severe. Some of the strategies being applied to slash the wastewater are:

Choosing fabric and dye mixes, which increase dye efficiency

To enable chosen reuse, divide different wastewater streams

Counter-current rinsing

To better the wastewater quality, which minimises chemical costs, apply enzymes rather than chemical agents, where possible.

Textile production and energy consumption

Textiles and energy

From use of farm machinery, to shipping to processing units, to production (including finishing and dyeing), supply, sales and dumping, use of energy is apparent all through the life cycle of textiles.

Polluted water from dyeing, rinsing and washing baths and from dyeing chemicals create major part of waste. Energy is used when warming the dye baths and running pumps and other portions of the dyeing equipment.

Cold-pad batch dyeing for cotton, for instance, influences less on the environment than conventional techniques.

The new procedure consumes 33% less energy and 45% less water, needs fewer chemicals and generates less waste matter.

How to reduce the use of energy

While designing

choose materials that contain lower energy

Introduce changes in product components to lower the energy consumption.

enhance the product life.

While producing

exchange heat from hot waste matters to incoming streams

protect hot vessels (dyeing machines, boilers, steam pipes, hot water storage)

monitor cold-temperature dyeing and finishing

use microwave energy for dyeing

match energy forms to use.

On the whole

Evaluate systems regarding the expenditure and energy competence

Plan out a schedule of prepare a program of continuous developments to remove incompetence

Energy audit should be carried out

find out and supervise the competence of main energy-using procedures.

To sum up

The environmental impacts, as per traditions, connected with the textile sector are extended all through the life cycle of fabrics and there are various factors at each phase of production, use and disposal. As a result, it would be unwise to state that a single fibre is environmentally kinder than another. Producers and designers should try to be specific about a textile which:

is produced from sources, which are renewable or recycled
. generates little or no waste during its life cycle
. is not dependent on contaminating or poisonous chemicals during its lifetime
. is enduring and needs little attention
. consumes least energy and reserve from development to production
. consumes minimum water reserve during its life cycle
. is reusable, recyclable or biodegradable.

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