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Fiber Firms Are Tackling Textile’s Water Crisis Through Innovation

It’s well-known that the textile industry has a water problem and Taylor Home & Fashion and Lenzing Fibers are out to do something about it.

The companies are tackling the issue of “Reducing Water Consumption in Textiles,” which was the topic of a seminar at the recent Texworld USA, through development of fresh methods for fiber and yarn dyeing and colorization, which are among the worst culprits in water usage and discharge of hazardous chemicals.

“The textile industry has always been a major threat to our water supply…and is one of the biggest polluters on the planet, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s industrial water pollution, using as many as 20,000 chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic,” Jennifer Thompson, global marketing manager for Taylor Home & Fashions, said in a video presentation during the panel. “Much of this water is used in the coloration and finishing of fabrics.”

Adding to that, Thompson said citing the World Bank, that 17 percent to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. What’s more, there are 72 toxic chemicals in the water that come from textile dyeing, of which 30 cannot be removed.

That’s what led Taylor Home & Fashions to create solutions to address the issue and develop “some wildly sustainable methods for coloration of yarns,” Thompson said. The company’s GiDelave line uses cellulosic fabrics and yarns such as cotton, linen, Tencel and modal.

“What makes our GiDelave product unique and sustainable is our coloration process,” Thompson said. “We color our yarns using 98 percent less water than traditional dyeing methods and we have no discharge of harmful chemicals.”

This is achieved through a direct colorization method the company calls “Color Diffusion” that “radically reduces water, chemical, infrastructure and energy consumption over traditional package dyeing,” Thompson explained.

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Color Diffusion is a continuous yarn coloration technology where a color base is transferred from a diffusion reactor to the yarn structure without the use of traditional textile processing equipment and chemicals, high volumes of water or large amounts of energy, Thompson said.

The Color Diffusion results in 98 percent less effluent due to a great reduction in chemicals in the process, and 50 percent energy reduction and a 66 percent curb in CO2 emissions thanks to less machinery usage needed compared to the fiber reactive process in traditional cellulosic yarn dyeing.

This is all part of what Thompson said is an approach of “radical innovation rather than incremental innovation,” leading the company to say, “What if, instead of dyeing the fabric, we colored the fabric?”

The Color Diffusion process allows for a greater range of colorizing effects so companies don’t need to put yarns or garments through extra washing or laundering to achieve a stylized effect, she noted. Then there’s the company’s Eco-Melange line, which blends cellulosic with recycled polyester fibers a waterless coloring method is used to create a heather effect on the fabric.

For Lenzing, a breakthrough for water savings came in the creation of Modal Black, a spin-dyed fiber that introduces color at the pre-extrusion level. Victor Almeida, technical customer support manager at Lenzing, explained that the black color pigment is incorporated put into the Modal fiber at the “dope” level, which is when the wood pulp is dissolved into a thick liquid prior to being extruded through spinnerets to create the fiber.

This coloring of the fiber, instead of dyeing it on the surface, not only creates greater penetration and longevity of the color, but creates a more sustainable product. This dope dyeing leads to 64 percent less water usage, 90 percent less chemicals and 20 percent energy savings.

“You’re also saving time and increasing capacity by using this process instead of traditional dyeing methods, and reducing costs,” Almeida added.