Sustainability in textile development and manufacturing is an ongoing conversation, much of it revolving around processes that conserve energy, water and natural resources. But beyond manufacturing processes, sustainability issues are driving true technical innovation, resulting in new products offering a host of advantages.
Replacing PFCs in DWRs
The search for alternatives to perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) such as PFOA and PFOS (used to render textiles durably water and stain repellent have been front and center, primarily in the apparel , carpet and upholstery, and outdoor sectors. Loudly condemned by NGO and sustainability campaigner Greenpeace, and subsequently by various government organizations, PFCs persist in the environment and bio-accumulate in animals and humans, creating a number of health issues.
The European Union has banned the use of PFOS, and is considering a restriction on PFOA. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) negotiated with the chemical companies who produced them to phase out PFOA by 2015. As a result, textile and chemical companies have been forced to innovate sustainable, water or bio-based DWR finishes such as Chemours™ Teflon Eco-Elite™, Sciessent CURB™, Huntsman PHOBOTEX®, Schoeller® Technologies ecorepel®, HeiQ Eco Dry, and Bolger & O’Hearn’s Altopel F3®.
Based in Fall River, Massachusetts, Bolger & O’Hearn developed Altopel F3 some time ago, but felt that testing with the Hohenstein institute would add legitimacy to the product, which is now being launched via textile marketing group Concept III. “Sustainability is inspiring us to take a closer look at our raw materials and supply chain,” says Shawn Honeycutt, Bolger & O’Hearn sales manager. “We think we have the best performing product in the market.”
The PFC-free alternatives generally impart a softer hand to textile products, and repel water-based stains; but unlike PFC-based finishes, they do not have the ability to repel oil-based dirt and stains. As a result, some manufacturers of high-performance outdoor gear, such as Patagonia and W.L. Gore & Associates, are funding additional research. Patagonia has invested in a Swiss company, Beyond Surface Technologies, which is working to develop better chemistries for outdoor apparel; the Gore Enterprise is putting $15 million into researching non-PFC materials. The first non-PFC Gore-Tex products should be available in 2018.
At Chemours, “The story is moving towards stain management,” says Gerald Brown, the company’s principal investigator for textiles R&D. “Our customer is asking for it, and we feel we are making strides towards that end.”
Improving on nature
While many proponents of sustainable textiles maintain that you can’t beat Mother Nature, the truth is that innovative synthetic materials are being engineered with better green credentials. Nonwoven wipes are an example. The market for single-use, personal care wipes (generally made from polyester) reached $8.2 billion in 2013, according to Euromonitor International, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3 percent through 2018.
While most wipes are not flushable, ending up in landfills, consumers are demanding the convenience of a flushable wipe. A large proportion of wipes are flushed anyway, much to the dismay of municipalities who must deal with the problem of blocked sewers.
The industry is developing new requirements for flushable wipes, and some manufacturers have turned to cellulosic fibers, which can be more easily biodegraded. But according to Bynum Poole, president of the Greenville, South Carolina-based Poole Co., a leading distributor of polyester fibers for the nonwovens industry, cellulosic nonwovens are more expensive and more difficult to process than polyester.
Like many polyester suppliers, the company offers post-consumer recycled fibers, via their EcoSure® brand. Last year the company took the process a step further with the development of EcoSure® BioBlast™, a biodegradable fiber made from 100 percent recycled PET bottles, shown to biodegrade 12 times faster over a year in landfill conditions than traditional polyester fibers.
While biodegradable is not the same as flushable, it is perhaps a step in the right direction. According to Poole, the product could be tweaked to biodegrade faster to meet the needs of a brand partner. “The nonwovens ship turns around slowly,” he confessed. “But we have a lot of interest and ongoing trials.”
EcoSure BioBlast fibers are also seeing interest from outdoor apparel and sock brands, as well as the automotive industry, Poole says.
The textile industry is also taking a closer look at the sustainability story being told by bio-based fibers such as DuPont™ Sorona®, which has been around for more than a decade. Given the generic “triexta,” Sorona is a type of polytrimethyl terephthalate (PTT) containing 37% Bio-PDO™ (bio-based 1,3 propanediol), made by fermenting glucose from corn.
“We’ve never really told our story,” says John Sagrati, global segment leader for Sorona carpet. “Sorona is more like a natural fiber; it comes from fermentation. Think of us as a natural fiber, with the same softness as cashmere or silk; and great natural springiness. The magic is in designing from nature forward, instead of being ‘just like’ other synthetics in the market.”
Bio-PDO™ (bio-based 1,3 propanediol) contains three carbons, and nature is filled with three-carbon and six-carbon forms. “People are beginning to understand the concept of ‘biomimicry’,” says Renee Henze, global marketing manager for Sorona.
Because those carbons are impervious to stains and odor, Sorona has seen its greatest success in carpeting. Sagrati pointed out that soft, resilient Sorona carpet fibers don’t require coating with silicone softeners or stain-resistant finishes (read: no PFCs). “It doesn’t look or feel synthetic; there’s no extra stuff on it,” he said. “And moths won’t eat Sorona.”
The Sorona technical team is also working closely with carpet mills to develop new blends that take advantage of the fiber’s softness, and to engineer latex-free backings, further reducing the product’s environmental footprint.
The latest use for sustainable Sorona fibers is in makeup brushes, where it replaces natural animal hair. Sorona’s softness and stain-resistant qualities are also attracting the high-end automobile industry, where “glowing” light-colored interiors are trending, according to Sagrati.
Creatively applying recycling
The proliferation of closed-loop textile systems that keep textile waste out of the landfill is creating a host of recycled yarns and materials that can be used to make new textiles, primarily for apparel and industrial end uses such as insulation, batting and bedding. But recycled and sustainable materials are also being used to engineer highly technical products.
Leaders in this area are Leigh Delaware Holdings, the parent company of South Carolina-based Leigh Fibers, a processor and trader of recycled fibers, and ICE Recycling, which reprocesses polymers, cardboard and metal. Leigh recently announced the formation of a third sister company, SmartVista™, to focus on the development of new products and technologies from these materials for a variety of industries.
SmartVista’s first product, called SPILLARMOR™ – RDS100, is a lightweight, self-contained emergency response unit designed to rapidly absorb hydrocarbon spills.
“SmartVista will continue developing customer focused technologies for a wide array of industries where sustainable solutions may not currently be available,” says Mariel McAllister, director of public relations for the three companies. Through sustainable engineering, Leigh Fibers has diverted morethan 14 billion pounds of textile waste and byproducts from landfills.
There are dozens of sustainability-driven innovations currently in development in the world of textiles, from synthetic spider silk and fibers spun from oceanic plastic waste, to eco-alternatives to spandex, dyes and printing inks, goose down, building materials, or geo-synthetics. Indeed, one could argue that sustainable imperatives are perhaps the greatest driver of textile innovation today, giving product developers the opportunity to not only make textiles more sustainable—but to create something new and different in the process.
*This story first appeared on Advanced Textile Source
The following is adapted from the book “Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon.”
When I say that I have been writing a book on rayon, the initial response frequently is, “Radon? That’s radiation, isn’t it?”
My attempt at a clarifying follow-up and the ensuing exchange typically runs: “Not radon, rayon, the synthetic textile.”
“Oh, didn’t they stop making that years ago — it was invented for parachutes or something in World War II, right?”
“Actually, rayon has been around since the turn of the last century — about 1900—and it’s still being made. Maybe you know it better as viscose?”
“Viscose? I didn’t know that was rayon. I thought viscose was a green product, not a synthetic.”
“Viscose rayon is based on cellulose. That part may be ‘green,’ but the chemical used to make the viscose isn’t. It’s a toxic chemical called carbon disulfide.”
“Does that mean viscose isn’t safe to wear? I’d better go through my wardrobe!”
“No,” I reassure at this point. “It’s only the workers who make it that suffer, and maybe the surrounding environment.” Consumer angst allayed, the conversation usually turns to some other topic.
I understand fully. Occupational disease is not the standard stuff of casual conversation. Admittedly, viscose is pretty far from central to almost anyone’s thoughts. Moreover, carbon disulfide, the toxic agent prerequisite to the making of viscose, is an unknown entity to anyone but a practicing chemist. Even most physicians have never heard of carbon disulfide unless they happen to remember it from an organic chemistry lab class they were forced to suffer through in premed. But the story of viscose manufacturing and viscose-caused disease, by rights, should not be obscure. It deserves to be every bit as familiar as the cautionary tales of asbestos insulation, leaded paint, or the mercury-tainted seafood in Minimata Bay.
Throughout most of the 20th century, viscose rayon manufacturing was inextricably linked to widespread, severe and often lethal illness among those employed in making it. Viscose is behind another product closely related to rayon — cellophane — and both rely on carbon disulfide as their key manufacturing constituent. Viscose, a technological innovation in its day, once was a very big business. In fact, it was one of the first truly multinational corporate enterprises, having achieved this status in the period just before World War I. A bit later in the 20th century, during the Great Depression, the viscose business did not suffer appreciably. Rather, it flourished. Viscose went on to assume a highly profitable position as a strategic matériel on both sides in World War II.
Peace finally came; viscose went from strength to strength. For the Courtaulds company (phoenix of the post-imperial British textile industry) and for the behemoth state-owned enterprises of the Eastern bloc, rayon was pivotal. During the same period in the United States, DuPont held on to its lucrative near monopoly on cellophane, fighting an antitrust ruling all the way to the Supreme Court. After the industry’s midcentury apogee, viscose manufacturing found itself in the vanguard of those hazardous industrial processes exported to the developing world, starting in the 1960s and continuing through the decades that followed. Even now, viscose is still very much with us. Its successful rebranding as a renewable , eco-friendly product cleverly sidesteps the inconvenient reality that carbon disulfide, whether mixed with soft wood pulp or bamboo or straw, is anything but green.
The basic industrial manufacturing steps employed in making viscose never have been much of a trade secret. Cellulose wood pulp is treated with caustic soda at a high pH; carbon disulfide is added to that solution; the mix is churned, allowed to “ripen” and then mixed with more caustics to form a syrupy semiliquid that is the eponymous viscose of the process. The viscose syrup is forced through tiny spinning nozzles submerged in a bath of sulfuric acid, like sprinklers irrigating a Hadean garden. It is in this unkind environment that the extruded filaments of viscose rayon fibers coagulate and grow. Replace the tiny spinning holes with a long, thin slit and one produces viscose-based film (that is, cellophane). Along the way there have been variations on this theme, but the basic story line has stayed the same.
Carbon disulfide has remained a constant in the mix. This chemical has the nearly unique ability to engage cellulose molecules, lining them up for guidance into a new form. Then, at just the right moment, the carbon disulfide lets go of the cellulose. Unless the process is engineered with care, the place where the “carbon disulfide lets go” is directly into the factory air breathed by viscose workers, with the rest wafted out into the surrounding environment. Just as the basic process for making viscose is well established, the most dramatic effect of carbon disulfide on humans has been long appreciated. For more than 150 years, considerably in advance of rayon’s invention, the chemical’s potent and special toxicity has been clearly recognized. Carbon disulfide’s industrial debut was as a vulcanizing agent in the rubber trade, back in the middle of the 19th century. Trouble was noted very soon after the chemical was first introduced. The effect was hard to miss: carbon disulfide exposure led to acute insanity in those it poisoned.
In the many years that followed, more and more medical evidence documented in exquisite detail the many ways in which carbon disulfide adversely affects the nervous system. Besides frank insanity, poisoning can be manifested in subtler personality changes. Carbon disulfide causes toxic degenerative brain disease and acts by damaging the sensory capacity of nerves (including those responsible for vision). After years of exposure, even more insidious carbon disulfide damage appears through increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Only in recent decades have these latter effects been established conclusively. Sophisticated epidemiological investigation was required to confirm the unusual pattern of individual cases that were occurring among viscose workers: disease that was happening both too frequently and among those at too young an age typically to suffer from these problems.
Despite its shocking legacy, viscose’s history is almost completely unknown. Even those otherwise well versed in issues of public health are largely unaware of this story. Yet it is a history hiding in plain sight. In large part, I am motivated by a desire to memorialize the terrible suffering that has occurred. Almost everyone not only knows about radon — unlike rayon — and many can even name a specific victim: Madame Curie, who succumbed to leukemia, almost assuredly due to her occupational exposure to radiation. I want those who paid the full price for carbon disulfide’s use to be as well remembered. And I intend to name names. This may not be possible for the unrecognized thousands whom carbon disulfide made ill, although here and there personal traces of individuals can be detected. It is far easier, however, to identify the perpetrators. Indeed, some of them are still in business today, albeit after having been renamed, acquired, spun off and then remerged through a string of new, also-known-as names and business acronyms. I also believe that this past history is highly relevant to other manufacturing innovations of today and tomorrow, processes that, like viscose production, may endanger worker health, threaten to degrade environmental quality, or compromise consumer product safety.
“Fake Silk” is most certainly about illness, about the disease and death that the viscose industry caused in its factories. And it is about technological innovation, an engine fueled by carbon disulfide that churned out novel products for an eager consumer public. Fake Silk is also about economics. After all, this was an industry that helped coin a new term, “duopoly.” Referring to a market with only two sellers, duopoly characterized the comfortable arrangement between DuPont and Courtaulds’ U.S. subsidiary in divvying up the lucrative American viscose business. More than that, economic profit has always been at the heart of viscose’s power, whether that was parlayed by robber barons, war profiteers, state capitalists or, in our own time, savvy players in a globalized market. Yet most of all, “Fake Silk” is about people. Some of them are truly despicable, but many were honorable women and men and more than a few were quite heroic. In just over a century of viscose’s history, five generations have toiled in it and, before that, three worked with carbon disulfide–tainted rubber. This may not be the full 10 generations that traditionally mark the passage of time from Adam to Noah, but it is still a significant slice of the human experience. I know that I cannot do full justice to that, but I hope never to lose sight of the real people who lived the story told in these pages.
*This story first appeared on GreenBiz
14 years after the release of the first online positive list for safe chemicals, bluesign technologies has launched the latest generation of the bluesign® bluefinder(pat.). This patented platform has already amassed more than 7’500 “bluesign® approved” chemicals.
Peter Waeber, CEO of bluesign technologies says “2020 is now – you can use the ‘bluesign® approved’ products for your chemical change management to detox the supply chain today. With the comprehensive range in the bluesign® bluefinder(pat.) all possible colors and common finishes are possible! Including more than 60 alternatives to PFCs! Additionally a recommendation for every single chemical product for the various possible end-uses is given – this is an absolutely unique feature of the bluesign® bluefinder(pat.). It makes a huge difference if a chemical is used for babywear or a tent”.
The chemicals that are in the bluesign® bluefinder(pat.) originate from the most sustainably acting chemical companies around the world. To get a chemical certified, a chemical company has to undergo a bluesign® audit followed by a corrective action plan to fulfill the bluesign® criteria for production sites. Only after implementing the necessary steps to fulfill the bluesign® criteria for chemical companies is a certification of a chemical product possible.
The key for a chemical assessment is a perfectly installed Product Stewardship Program to get all necessary data in an accurate and correct form. “It is well known to all stakeholders in this industry that a simple chemical test or a ‘Safety Data Sheet’ doesn’t fulfill the minimum criteria for a chemical assessment!” says Peter Waeber. A fully functioning “Product Stewardship Program” is the only way for a robust and systemic approach to get a constant quality (lot by lot – day by day) which is key to fulfill the sustainability and environmental requirements of all stakeholders in the supply chain.
“There is no shortcut to detox the supply chain – our long experience proves that a ‘bluesign® light version’ doesn’t work at all. With the new bluesign® bluefinder(pat.) we are ready for the next generation of chemical assessment. In 2017 we will launch for our chemical system partners a new release of the bluesign® bluetool(pat.) that will consider the latest technology for risk assessments including the requirements of e.g. REACH, GHS etc. The new bluesign® bluefinder(pat.) contains these functions already to be prepared for the future”, says Peter Waeber.
The bluesign® bluetool(pat.) was developed in 2001 and equips a chemical designer or at the end the whole textile industry with a comprehensive and safe instrument to fulfill not only consumer safety aspects but also to reduce the impact to the environment. The precautionary system inside the bluesign® bluetool(pat.) contains more than 680 banned chemical substances – this is much more than the largest MRSL from NGOs or brands. In clear words; all end-of-pipe aspects that are relevant for the textile and related industry are completely covered.
Background information bluesign technologies ag
The bluesign® system is the solution for a sustainable textile production. It eliminates harmful substances right from the beginning of the manufacturing process and sets and controls standards for an environmentally friendly, safe and resource efficient production. This not only ensures that the final textile product meets very stringent consumer safety requirements worldwide but also provides confidence to the consumer to acquire a sustainable product. bluesign technologies ag was founded in 2000. Since then, the bluesign® system has been adopted by worldwide leading textile and accessory manufacturers. Various significant key players of the chemical and machine industry rely on the bluesign® system. And well-known brands of the outdoor, sportswear and fashion industry depend on the extensive knowledge of bluesign technologies.
*This story first appeared on bluesign
Each Kingpins Transformers, the seasonal summit focusing on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the denim industry, brings attention to the need for industry-wide regulations.
At the most recent seminar titled “Toxic Future: Is the Scary Part of Hazardous Chemicals On the Way?” held in Amsterdam on Monday, speakers from all parts of the supply chain had a turn to voice their concerns about the mounting pressure to create denim without hazardous chemicals and the rising costs that come with safer products.
Speakers agreed on the need for more collaboration and action, though many warned that in the process of fixing one problem, new ones may be created. Here are a few takeaways from the event.
Alberto De Conti, Garmon Chemicals CMO, said the vast volume of chemicals used in the manufacturing process, coupled with the multi-tiered textile supply chain that involved tens of thousands of suppliers worldwide, adds to the complexity of wiping the denim industry clean of hazardous chemicals.
And then there’s the industry’s “regulatory schizophrenia.”
Every time a new molecule is discovered, De Conti said there’s a long process of regulation, which differs from country to country. On top of this, brands have their own initiatives and restricted substance lists. As a chemical company, Garmon has more than 200 brand-driven lists that it must follow.
“It’s excessive,” De Conti said. From 2012 to 2016, Garmon’s overhead costs increased 200 percent and the cost of compliance grew 1,700 percent.
“It’s not sustainable. You have a brand pushed by Greenpeace, they go to their manufacturer and ask for innovation, quality, shorter lead times, on-time delivery and they [want] environmental compliance and lower prices. So what does the manufacturer do? He turns to his suppliers, including chemical companies, but its hard to provide a low price due to previous cost increases. There’s temptation to go out and look for chemicals that are low quality and not checked as much as they should be. So you get retox—all the measures to minimize the problem creates a new problem,” he said.
In the end, De Conti says it’s a game that no one wins. The cost of chemicals go up, control decreases, brand risk goes up and innovation and quality decline.
“Do we need so much complexity? If the potential problem is a common one, why not one common solution?” he asked.
There’s a lot of BS.
From organic cotton’s “toxic” certification process and its high cost in the U.S. compared with Europe, to the impossibility of using natural indigo on a large industrial scale, Alberto Candiani, co-owner and global manager at Candiani Denim, named the “top ten sustainable BS” he hears from the industry.
Candiani encouraged the industry to stop “demonizing” processes until it has all the facts. PP Spray is only bad if it’s not neutralized, and sandblasting can be safe in the proper working conditions, he said. Candiani’s “worst nightmare” is toxic dilution, or lowering the amount of hazardous chemicals by using more water to dilute it.
“Everyone has to commit to reduce the use of chemicals and at the same time water waste and discharge needs to be controlled,” he said
The Case of Aniline
Panelist questioned the fate of aniline, the organic toxic compound that was a precursor to indigo. While Candiani believed aniline is safe unless the indigo sublimes, Miguel Sanchez, Archroma global head business development of denim and casual wear, argued otherwise.
“Indigo and aniline are of so close together,” said Sanchez. “Aniline is a classified B2 carcinogenic, that means it’s potentially carcinogenic.”
“The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
Sanchez said there’s no advantage in having aniline content in natural indigo. “The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter if it is coming from natural indigo or synthetic, you have the same risk,” added Christian Dreszig, Bluesign Technologies head of marketing.
Sanchez expects more consumers and safety organizations to take note of the potential risk aniline poses because information is readily accessible online. He said Swedish children’s brand Polarn O. Pyret examined aniline-free denim from different brands and found that the chemical was still present. “And from there other brands have been doing their own work on it. The link between aniline and indigo goes beyond the moment the indigo is on the garment,” he said.
The industry could experience its biggest shake-up if ZHDC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) ever named aniline a banned substance. “It will change your life in the industry because then you cannot use indigo for any blue jeans,” said Dreszig.
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans
Color and speciality chemicals company Archroma celebrated three years in business on Oct. 1, marking the occasion by emphasizing its sustainability efforts.
“Even though it is still very young, Archroma has accomplished a great deal,” said Archroma CEO Alexander Wessels. “Archroma is already a leader in driving sustainability in the value chain. We intend to build on that position, making use of innovations we have developed and continue to develop for implementation use across our markets.”
The Basel, Switzerland-based compnay, founded in 2013, has grown quickly since inception. In 2014, Archroma acquired 49 percent of M. Dohmen, an international group specializing in the production of textile dyes and chemicals for the automotive, carpet and apparel sectors. In July 2015, it added the global textile chemicals business BASF. Archroma now has 25 production facilities, including 11 in the Americas, eight in the EMEA region, and six in Asia.
“Archroma is now on a strong top and bottom line growth curve,” said Wessels, “We have been rapidly expanding innovation expenditure since we carved out the business from its previous owner.”
A typical example of the company’s efforts to improve sustainability in the textiles industry is its work in dyeing systems for denim under its Advanced Denim brand, which last year was adopted by Patagonia to develop a new dyeing and manufacturing process.
Advanced Denim uses dyestuffs that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource usage of traditional dyeing of denim. As a result, Patagonia reports it is using 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and emitting 25 percent less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes.
“If all the world’s jeans were made using our Advanced Denim dyeing technology, we could save the same amount of water as that used by several large European cities,” said Wessels. “Our Advanced Denim solution is now increasingly being adopted by various brands across the world.”
This spring, the company also introduced eco-advanced solutions in its range of optical brightening agents (OBAs) for printing and writing papers. Both innovations, marketed under the names Leucophor ACS and Advanced Whitening, aim to offer solutions that require reduced dosage for papermakers, thereby lowering their transport costs and carbon footprint.
“It is a misconception that innovation and sustainability need to come necessarily at a premium,” said Wessels. “Archroma has shown that this is possible, and we intend to continue on this path well into the future.”
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans