By  on August 1, 2011

NEW YORK — Sustainability and environmentally friendly fabricsand production methods are going from secondary concerns to theforefront of textile sourcing.

The need for innovation andintegrating inventions and research into the mainstream of manufacturingwas a major theme at last month’s round of fall-winter 2012-13 textileand sourcing fairs here, with companies touting such materials asrecycled polyester, antibacterial fabrics, eco-dyed goods and organiccotton.

Ann Gillespie, director of Industry Integrity at TextileExchange, conducting a seminar on sustainability at Texworld USA, gavesome dramatic statistics on the need for more sustainable andenvironmentally sound business practices, while offering insight intothe latest developments in textile innovations.

“It takes 700gallons of fresh water to make one cotton T-shirt,” Gillespie said. “In2009, the world used 3 trillion gallons of fresh water to produce 132billion pounds of fabric. According to the World Bank, 20 percent ofindustrial fresh-water pollution comes from textile treatment anddyeing.”

She noted advancements in renewable and biodegradablematerials, such as Avantium’s YXY process that converts biomass intobio-polymers that can be used in fibers, Rilsan polyamide derived fromcaster beans, Rudolf Chemie’s use of canola oil for textile dyeing andfinishing and enzyme technology for textile processing. There is also arevived interest in natural fibers and their development, Gillespienoted, such as nettle projects in the Netherlands and the Himalayas, andthe use of alpaca, kenaf, kapok, coir, pineapple and banana fibers.

Alsoimportant are closed-loop production systems for waste reduction, asemployed by Lenzing Fibers in its production of cellulosic fibers Tenceland Modal, as well as methods to limit or eliminate water in themanufacture or processing of fibers and fabrics. Innovations hereinclude Huntsman Textiles Effect’s Avitera SE dyeing system forcellulosic fibers that reduces water consumption and increases dyeconsumption; CO2 dyeing, such as employed in the The Yeh Group’s DyeCooTextile Systems waterless dyeing; laser technology, as in Marithé etFrançois Girbaud’s Wattwash line that uses a 97.5 percent water-freedenim washing technique; plasma technologies to effect surfacemodification of different kinds of fibers, and digital printing.

Ina sort of letter to the industry, Paul Hulme, president of HuntsmanTextile Effects, said, “It’s time that all of us in the textile industrytake stock of the current situation and work in partnership toimplement a change that will lead toward a more sustainable textileprocessing industry. Only collectively can we truly have any impact toreduce the environmental impact in key markets such as India and China —the very communities that are most affected by access to water.”

Notingthat the global textiles dyes market is expected to reach $5.5 billionby 2015, Hulme said Huntsman’s Productivity Improvement Program is aimedat developing innovative solutions to create products and technologieswith intelligent effects to reduce water and energy consumption.

Tothat point, Gillespie said, “Companies are in a dynamic situation ofembracing sustainable development through innovative solutionsthroughout the supply chain. There is a need for an integrated approachwhere designers, marketers, technologists and manufacturers can worktogether.”

Gillespie has joined with Andrew Olah, founder of theKingpins Show, and Stuart Adams, co-founder of Continuum Textiles, tocreate The Continuum Show, a boutique trade show that intends to bringtogether the most progressive and innovative solutions to textilesustainability. It is set to bow in New York in January and runconcurrently with the Kingpins denim show.

Throughout the shows,companies were promoting how they have gone from the drawing board tothe selling floor with these next-generation products.

There wasAkin Tekstil’s recycled cotton and polyester, Ruentex Industries’anti-U.V. and antibacterial fabrics, and Textil Santanderina’s work withthe University of Cantabria to create and implement methods to decreasesludge discharge at its factories, and chemical and water use in itsproduction. The Spanish company has also worked with chemical companyClariant to create Eco-Sandye, which uses biodegradeable colorants and adyeing process that allows for 90 percent water savings, and separatelyproduces Supreme, a Tencel and cotton blend fiber spun in a way toreduce energy consumption.

Terry Turner, product developmentdirector for Unifi Inc., discussed the firm’s Repreve line of recycledpolyester made from used water bottles. Unifi, which recently invested$8 million in a new recycling facility in Yadkinville, N.C., that willproduce 40 million to 50 million pounds of recycled filament annually,is committed to developing more sustainable materials and betterenvironmental manufacturing methods.

“We need to develophigher-quality fibers so recycled fabrics have a better image,” Turnersaid. “Polyester is the most used fiber in the world and…offers thelargest opportunity for recycled products.”

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