Ecology And Economy In Textile Finishing

nergy consumption and water usage in the textile industry in general, and particularly in
dyeing and finishing processes, are very high and costly. The textile industry is expected to play
an ever-more-progressive role in developing environmentally friendly technologies and processes.
There is a lot of potential for savings. By saving energy and water, the textile industry can not
only save a lot of money, but also help to slow down climate change.

In today’s competitive market environment, it’s hard to increase the price of any product,
in spite of higher raw material prices and soaring energy and water costs. Therefore, it’s more
important than ever to apply modern technology with the greatest potential for energy and water
savings, resulting in reduced production costs.

Climate Change And The Textile Industry

At ITMA Asia + CITME 2008, Bill Fong, executive director, European operations, of Hong
Kong-based dyeing and finishing machinery manufacturer Fong’s Industries Co. Ltd., gave an
impressive presentation about the future with regard to climate change and the textile industry.

Fong began by mentioning that “for more than two millennia, the Ganges, which flows more
than 2,400 kilometers from the Himalayas, across the plains of India, into Bangladesh and then the
Bay of Bengal, has been revered as a symbol of spiritual purity. In Varanasi, say inhabitants, the
river level has dropped by an easily observable 2 meters. Climate change is also taking its
disastrous toll. The Himalayan Gangotri glacier, the source of most of the Ganges’ water during
India’s long, hot summer, is shrinking by 40 meters a year, say scientists. By 2030, it could
disappear altogether – making the Ganges seasonal, dependent upon erratic monsoon rains.”

Cooperation Is Better Than Confrontation

Today, some Western countries are blaming the East for using too much energy. The Eastern
world just started its industrial development a short time ago. For example, one-third or even more
of the world population lives in China and India. Who would deny that these people also have the
right to a better life? At the moment, China is producing more carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than
the United States. However, China’s 11th Five-Year Plan sets targets of reducing energy consumption
per unit of gross domestic product by 20 percent, and cutting total emissions of major pollutants
by 10 percent by the year 2010.

The total global production of man-made fibers in 2006 rose to 41.27 million metric tons, of
which China and India accounted for 51.8 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, and man-made fiber
consumption is steadily increasing
(See Table 1).

The textile industry uses a lot of energy. Table 2 shows the energy consumption in kilowatt
hours (kWh) to produce a 100-percent cotton shirt. It takes 4 square meters of land to grow the
cotton, and there are 300 grams of fabric in the shirt. The following benchmarks show the
difference in energy consumption of the dry process steps of knitting and weaving versus the wet

•    knitting: 1.2 kWh/kilogram (kg);

•    weaving: 6.2 kWh/kg; and

•    finishing: 17.9 kWh/kg.


Water Usage And Potential Savings

A comparison of water consumption and potential savings by the global textile industry is
very striking
(See Table 3). The estimated average water use is based on liters/kg of textiles. The data
presented by Fong about global water consumption are based on a global annual textile production of
60 billion kg. Every percentage of water savings is an enormous amount of water. And, according to
experts all over the world, water is one of the big crisis issues for the future.

To give a better image and understanding of the numbers, Fong converted the cubic-meter (m3)
water consumption into the number of Olympic-size swimming pools that would be filled. The volume
of water for one Olympic-size swimming pool is 2,500 m3. This comparison is also quite impressive
(See Table 3).


Energy Consumption

And Potential Cost Savings

Based on the given annual global textile production of 60 billion kg, the estimated energy
consumption is hard to imagine: 1,074 billion kWh or 132 million metric tons of coal. Cost savings
of 30 to 50 percent are easy to calculate. At just 30 percent, the savings are gigantic. If 1
metric ton of coal is calculated to cost US$130, the annual energy cost is US$17.2 billion.
Potential cost savings are as follows:

•    50 percent: US$8.6 billion;

•    40 percent: US$6.9 billion; and

•    30 percent: US$5.1 billion.

Beyond fiber production, the dyeing and finishing sector is the largest energy and water
consumer in the whole textile chain and has the highest potential for energy and water savings and
efficiency improvements.

Changing Consumer Attitudes

The industrial manufacturing sector accounted for 26 percent of global energy use and
produced 18.5 percent of CO2 emissions in 2004, according to a report from the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization. Today, the consmer is much more environmentally conscious than
ever. Tomorrow, environmentally friendly products will be an important factor for success on the

Sustainability is no longer just a slogan for a clever marketing campaign, but a
prerequisite for a long-term business and even survival. Some big European retailers are already
asking for a certificate such as that offered by England-based Carbon Footprint Ltd. to show how
products were produced. And the European consumer is ready to pay more money for “green” products.
The US brand Patagonia® has been very successful for years offering outdoor apparel products
containing polyester made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles instead of virgin

In Great Britain, as the L.E.K. Carbon Footprint Report 2007 states: “[T]he scientific
debate about climate change appears to have subsided, with a broad acceptance that carbon emissions
need to be controlled. Despite this, the appropriate business response to the issue remains
uncertain. Companies have publicly pursued a variety of responses. Marks & Spencer launched its
Plan A and companies such as Boots, through the Carbon Trust, have introduced carbon labels on a
number of their products. While the ‘answer’ may not be clear, what is certain is that carbon
management strategies are converging with core company strategies to form an integral element of a
business’s approach.” According to data compiled by London-based L.E.K. Consulting LLC, the trends
are obvious: consumers are ready to buy more green products. It’s remarkable to see that 40 percent
of consumers think manufacturers have a responsibility to make environmentally friendly products
(See Tables 4 and 5).

The big British department store Tesco will carry a refreshed label design featuring a
carbon footprint™ logo, the carbon footprint figure, an endorsement from the London-based Carbon
Trust and a written commitment to reduce carbon emissions. This refreshed design is based on
extensive research with pilot partners and consumers. It provides more information for consumers to
help them understand the carbon impact of a product and use this understanding to make purchasing
decisions and reduce emissions. Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s CEO, commented: “We want to give our
customers the power to make informed green choices for their weekly shop, and enlist their help in
working towards a revolution in green consumption. We encourage all of our suppliers and
competitors to support the Carbon Trust in this collaboration.”

Philip Charles Gamett, director of London-based Continental Clothing Company Ltd., said his
company “will use the Carbon Trust’s first carbon reduction label for textile products to pass
forward the competitive advantage we have gained to corporate business leaders looking to act on
climate change. We will ensure that every industry leader in Europe and the US will have been
presented with the opportunity to benefit from so-called ‘EarthPositive’ apparel, using it to
communicate to shareholders, employees and customers. Furthermore, we will show sustainability to
be profitable and to have competitive advantage, and so encourage copycat behavior and thus
movement towards a brand new industry in low-carbon clothing and textiles.”


Is The Industry Ready For The Change?

Twenty years ago, the question was: “Can man save this fragile earth?” Today, the question
should be the other way around: “How can the earth be saved from mankind?” Is the textile industry
ready for this change? By replacing the existing capacity, significant benefits can be realized in
terms of water that would fill more than 1 million Olympic-size swimming pools per year. If the
annual worldwide coal consumption could drop by only 1 to 1.5 percent, the cost savings and the
profit in the dyeing and finishing sector could increase by more than US$6 billion per year. At the
same time, this would slow down climate change and reduce CO2 emissions resulting from the
worldwide industrial manufacturing sector by more than 2 percent annually.

Beyond fiber production, the dyeing and finishing sector is the largest energy and water
consumer in the whole textile chain and has the highest potential for energy and water savings and
efficiency improvements. “Action is needed, but the industry cannot do it alone,” Fong said.
“National and multinational governments should support the industry with incentive plans to change
old technology with modern equipment. Cutting-edge technology is available.”


January/February/March 2009