Fulgar Takes Sustainability Seriously

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Environmental awareness, leading to an emphasis on the value of recycling materials, a green lifestyle and zero emissions is one of the most urgent contemporary issues for fibre producers and final consumers. Fulgar, an Italian company, is the international leader in the production of nylon and coated yarns. Through its Research and Development section the company is constantly developing and implementing cutting edge product solutions with a low environmental impact


The latest sustainable innovation in new products by Fulgar is Q-NOVA®  MELANGE RECYCLED, a special  fibre created by blending Q-NOVA®, a 6.6 nylon fibre created using regenerated raw materials, with a polyester produced entirely from reused plastic bottles.

Using totally recycled materials in no way affects the performance of the fabrics.

A totally effective synthesis of functionality and aesthetic appeal, Q-NOVA® MELANGE RECYCLED yarns provide outstanding colour resistance for colours with long-lasting brilliance. What’s more, they give the fabric the comfort and easycare performance that is vital in all the sectors they are designed to offer a solution for – total stretch, softness, light weight, quick drying, excellent breathability, resistance to peeling and non-iron fabric care.


Fulgar’s typical Jaspé and Pulsar effects adapt perfectly to new textile technologies, presenting the opportunity to develop multicolour fabrics through a single controlled, continuous one-step process in the dyeing stage. Both effects enable the creation of yarns with different looks – with JESPÉ, the line is short and regular, while with PULSAR the melange feature is longer, with a more pronounced shot effect.

The two types of yarn create bi-colour effects on a perfectly uniform neutral base.

LCA – Life Cycle Assessment

FULGAR completes its path to sustainability by entrusting the environmental impact assessment of the whole process of its product production to the accredited scientific method LCA – Life Cycle Assessment.

Informed environmental conduct, focused on the conservation and enhancement of the ecosystem. This is one of the cardinal principles that defines the philosophy of Fulgar, an outstanding Italian company and leading European manufacturer of nylon and covered yarns.

The company’s philosophy is constantly renewed in its strategic product lines and is clearly reflected by its recent decision to evaluate its individual finished products and indeed the entire production cycle through the rigorous LCA Life Cycle Assessment, an accredited process that is internationally standardized by the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards.

Fulgar’s timely decision to undergo the LCA – Life Cycle Assessment study is consistent with the company’s attention to responsible development. Over the years, the company has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to eco-efficiency with the technological renewal of its production facilities, the construction of new areas and the search for new materials and new processing solutions.

Fulgar_Spinning plant detail

“Today more than ever, a company’s competitiveness is measured by its “reputation”, a complex mix of different factors, in which ethical considerations, such as environmental sustainability, play an increasingly important role. The contemporary consumer is aware and informed. They want to orient their buying decisions around products that are deemed “clean” in every aspect of their life cycle,” explains Alan Garosi, Fulgar’s Marketing Manager. “The data collection and analysis of all the life stages of the product, a process which characterizes the LCA – Life Cycle Assessment study, allows us to consider and improve our strategy, both in terms of the environment and production performance, and also offers us the possibility to give a clear and precise vision of the environmental impact of our yarns to the final brands and large distribution chains.”

Through the impact assessment (LCA – Life Cycle Impact Assessment), it is possible to determine the scale of the impact generated as a result of releases into the environment and the extent of the consumption of resources resulting from production activity.

In particular, for Fulgar, the production stages of three specific products were examined: the Fulgar Nylon 6,6 yarn, a  fibre obtained though the standard production cycle and two yarns that represent Fulgar’s innovation and textile research more than any other: Q-NOVA® and EVO®. Subjecting these three types of polyamide fibres to the Analysis of the Lifecycle (from the production of raw materials to the texturing stage), means obtaining an overall assessment of the entire “Fulgar system”, which takes all the variables, such as technologies, materials and processes, into account.


The data examined in the LCA report refers to annual production and considers “inflows” such as the consumption of water, electricity and renewable energy sources and “outflows” such as products and coproducts, waste water, air emissions, waste production and transport.

All the process stages for which it was possible to carry out data collection relate to the production of 1 kg of PA 6.6 textured yarn. The results obtained from the analysis of the three Fulgar products have made it possible to compare the polyamide fibres Nylon 6,6, EVO® and QNOVA® with other categories of fibres and yarns, highlighting the real advantage in terms of reduced environmental impact.

From the study, it emerges that cotton is highly polluting – with percentages of impact between 60 % and 80 % higher compared to other categories of fiber and yarn – due to very high water consumption during the cultivation stage. This is followed by polyester, viscose and acrylic fiber. In fact, one of the fibres with the least environmental impact proves to be polyamide, which can be defined as among the most eco-friendly.


The analysis of the lifecycle of Fulgar Nylon 6,6, EVO® and QNOVA® showed that the polymer with the lowest environmental impact is definitely Q-NOVA® in all impact categories and in terms of consumption of the resources considered (see table below).

Complete list of impact categories included in the LCA study


Below are the final figures relating mainly to air pollution in terms of CO2 x kg produced (or GPW – Global Potential Warming) of the three Fulgar polyamide yarns:

•             Q-NOVA® impact of approximately 1.77 kg CO2 eq.

•             EVO® impact of approximately 7.36 kg CO2 eq.

•             Fulgar nylon 6,6 impact of approximately 9.97 kg CO2 eq.

Italian Fulgar is the international leader in the man-made fibre market with the production and distribution of polyamide 6.6 and covered elastomers in the textile and technical sector. Founded in the 1970s at Castel Goffredo (Mantova) in the heart of Italy’s hosiery district, Fulgar carved out a role as sector leader and now boasts Europe’s largest nylon 6.6 yarn factory. The company’s global attitude is also reflected by the internationalization strategy launched by Fulgar with the opening of new production centers in Sri Lanka in 2003 and Serbia in 2007, as well as being present in Turkey with the official Fulgar distributor FFT. Fulgar is present in all textile sectors, from hosiery to circular knits, corsetry, swimming and sport, with high-quality products that stand out for their excellence and uniqueness, without ever forgetting the Made in Italy textile tradition. The great versatility of the products is the result of Fulgar’s design, development and manufacturing structure, which always remains aware of the look, functionality and comfort clients require. That’s why the company is constantly increasing its investment in R&D, with a significant increase in the last three years, in parallel with a deep commitment to environmental issues that takes the form of projects and initiatives involving the entire production process.

In 2009 Fulgar became an official partner of INVISTA®, owner of the LYCRA® brand, for the exclusive distribution in Europe and Turkey of the Lycra®  Fibre, Lycra T400® and Elaspan® Fibre brands. In 2012 Fulgar also became exclusive distributor and producer of Emana® fibre, owned by the Rhodia- Solvay group, for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

If we pause to analyse these results, it is clear that the two eco- innovations significantly contribute to a drop in CO2/kg eq emissions in the atmosphere.

The study confirms that QNOVA®, whose production is characterized by a mechanical, non-chemical recycling system with a zero kilometer supply chain, has a very low environmental impact in terms of C02 emissions. EVO®, though it is based on a natural material, reveals impact levels that are well below average. Finally, polyamide 6.6, which represents Fulgar’s production standard, is shown to have an environmental impact that is lower than other yarns.

To give an immediate example that makes it easier to understand the real meaning of the findings from the LCA study and from the comparison of the data, we can consider the production of a t-shirt. For the creation of a t-shirt, an estimated 250 g of material is required. If it were produced, as a raw material without considering the downstream stages, in virgin Nylon 6.6 produced by Fulgar, at the level of raw material it would have an impact of around 2.49 kg CO2 eq; the same t- shirt made from EVO® yarn would have an impact of 1.84 Kg CO2 eq (-26 % emissions), while the Q-NOVA® fibre would have an impact of only 0.44 Kg CO2 eq. (-82 % emissions).

One very topical and extremely important aspect is water resources. The water consumption involved in cotton  production is truly staggering: to produce 1 kg of cotton*, one of the most commonly used materials in the clothing industry, it takes a minimum of 7000 L of water and a maximum of 29000 L, with an average of around 18000 L of water per kg of cotton.

The solutions developed by Fulgar, the eco-innovations EVO® and Q-NOVA® as well as nylon 6.6, greatly reduce water consumption by introducing a substantial difference to the market. Producing the same amount of bio-based EVO® fiber can save up to 52 % litres of water per kg produced, while with nylon 6.6, the total water saving is even greater, equal to approximately 99% L less water per kg produced. Finally, the Q-NOVA® yarn, which is derived from  a  mechanical recycling system, saves almost the entirety – 99.9 % with a value equal to approximately 17983 litres water per kg produced.

As Alan Garosi reiterates: “for us, the LCA – Life Cycle Impact Assessment study is an eco-innovation tool that will allow us to further improve our environmental and economic performance and will enable us to ensure our customers distinct advantages in terms of transparency and full supply chain traceability.”

*This story first appeared on Textile Future

The US may be Releasing over 64,000 pounds of Tiny Synthetic Clothing Fibers into the Water Everyday

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Tim Boyle. Getty Images

Beginning July 1, 2017, the US will start phasing out soaps and cosmetics that include microbeads, the tiny pieces of plastic often used in soaps to help exfoliate the skin.


The ban comes after research showed the beads are often too small to get filtered by wastewater treatment plants. That means they can can end up in oceans and rivers, where marine animals wind up ingesting them, in turn causing the beads to be incorporated into our food chain. But microbeads are just one form of microplastics, a broader category that also includes tiny fibers that come off synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon.

Because these microfibers are less than a fifth of an inch long, many of them also get through the filters in treatment plants, yet so far there haven’t been any governmental efforts to regulate them. A recent study commissioned by outdoor clothing company Patagonia suggests we could be sending a shocking amount of these fibers — more than 64,000 pounds — into oceans and streams each day.

“Anything from plankton all the way up to whales have been found to have microfibers in their systems,” says Bess Ruff, a project researcher at U.C. Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, which published a study of microfiber pollution in Environmental Science & Technology in September.

The study was conducted by a research team of five graduate students overseen by Patricia Holden, a professor of environmental microbiology. To calculate the amount of fibers that gets released into our water system, the team tested four different types of synthetic Patagonia jackets and one budget fleece (a lower-end version that competes with Patagonia). Each was put in two kinds of washing machines — top-load and front-load — and then the runoff water from the loads was filtered through a uniquely designed column made to collect the fibers.

A magnified image of microfibres. Bren School of Environmental Science and Management

The team weighed the fibers, calculated how much gets shed in an average wash, and extrapolated that data for a city of 100,000 people. The group determined that wastewater treatment plants can filter out 65-92% of the microfibers in water, which means means every 100,000 people send between 19 and 242 pounds of microfibers into the water each day. (That large range also accounts for the quality of clothing, the type of washing machine, and the age of the items.)


That means the entire US population could be releasing more than 750,000 pounds of tiny fibers into the water daily. And that doesn’t include the microfibers that get filtered and incorporated into solid waste that water treatment plants collect, which is sometimes repurposed as fertilizer for farms.

Even the study’s low estimate — 64,000 pounds of microfibers each day — is surprisingly high.

According to Ruff and the Bren research team, microfiber pollution is troubling on two levels. First, it means that animals considered to be filter feeders, which eat by straining food particles out of water, are directly intaking the fibers. That category includes oysters and mussels, so the fibers could actually be in the tissue that humans eat.

Second, synthetic fibers (unlike natural ones like wool or cotton) are prone to absorbing chemicals. That means microfibers could potentially pick up chemicals while they travel through wastewater treatment plants, or that they could make it into oceans or streams carrying the chemicals originally added to the clothing they came from.

“You have odor-resistant chemicals applied, water-resistant chemicals applied, and those are inside the fibers,” Ruff says. “When they get consumed, these chemicals can be transferred to tissue of organisms that eat them.”

In other words, even if the fibers go into the parts of a fish that humans don’t typically eat — like the stomach or intestines — those chemicals could still get into the tissue we consume.

The amount that humans would ingest is tiny. But Ruff says large quantities of the most commonly found chemicals on microfibers have been shown to cause issues with the endocrine system, neurological development, and cancer. Researchers are also beginning to look into the chemicals’ impacts on smaller animals.

“There have been some studies on filter feeders where they’ve been shown to produce fewer eggs, smaller eggs and slower sperm, so you’re having a lower output of larvae,” she says. “It’s impacting the population. We don’t know how drastically or if it’s a long-term impact, but there have been noticeable changes in the physiology of these organisms from consuming fibers.”

That’s especially troubling to Patagonia, since many of its jackets and fleeces are made of synthetic materials and lots of its customers care deeply about the environment.

A woman spills ketchup on a Patagonia fleece. Patagonia Facebook

Since the results of the study were released, Elissa Loughman, manager of product responsibility at Patagonia, has been trying to figure out the best action for the company to take. An important first step, she says is “identifying fabrics and fibers that either shed a lot or shed less, understanding that, and then make decisions internally to minimize the use of those fabrics and fibers that shed more.”

Patagonia is also now working with a team at North Carolina State University to devise a test that clothing companies could use in their labs to learn about microfiber shedding when trying out a new material.

“The idea is that there could be another test that everyone could do in their standardized test tabs that would identify the shedding potential prior to actually choosing to put a fiber or a fabric to use in a product,” she explains.

Loughman adds that the problem has to be addressed at many levels — washing machine manufacturers can do their parts, too, and there are several ways eco-conscious consumers can decrease their microfiber pollution. Septic tank filters can be effective at catching microfibers when used in home washing machines, and a nonprofit called the Rozalia Project, which is devoted to keeping the oceans clean, is developing a ball that can catch microfibers in the wash.

Those who have a choice of washing machines should also opt for front-load ones instead of top-load ones, since the Bren study found that top-load machines create 5.3 times more fiber shedding. Ruff says the researchers still aren’t sure why this is the case, but think it has to do with the machines’ central agitator, which creates friction by grinding against the clothes. Front-load machines, on the other hand, just move the clothes against themselves.

But the easiest thing people can do, Ruff says, is just wash clothing less. Loughman says that’s a message Patagonia can get behind.

“Patagonia is an outdoorsy company and we sort of pride ourselves on getting dirty and staying dirty sometimes,” she says. “So having dirty clothes is kind of funny, and actually part of a solution to this.”

*This story first appeared on Business Insider

The Truth about Water and Cotton: It’s Complicated

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Cotton has a reputation for being “difficult,” water-wise. Numerous non-profits and global media outlets such as The Guardian have laid blame on it for dwindling water resources in places like India, or for the environmental devastation in the Aral Sea. The truth, as is often the case, is not so cut and dried. In fact, cotton is downright drought tolerant and there are numerous ongoing efforts to improve cotton’s water footprint across the board.

If cotton is not such a grotesque water hog, why the erroneous conventional wisdom? According to Ed Barnes, Senior Director for Agricultural and Environmental Research with Cotton Inc, a U.S.-based industry research and lobbying organization, quite often, it is guilt-by-association.

“Cotton naturally is very heat and drought tolerant,“said Barnes. “The plant…has always grown in very harsh environments. When you have a crop that is adapted to hot and dry climates, then it is growing in areas that experience water scarcity.”

Understanding where cotton is being grown is key to both understanding its water footprint, and also developing strategies to improve it.

“There all these complexities,” said Laila Petrie with the World Wildlife Federation’s Global Partnerships Team. “Is cotton being grown in a water-scarce area? Is there not good water governance?”

Even factoring all this, cotton – as one of the world’s mostimportant agricultural products – does effect water scarcity in certain parts of the world, with sometimes negative impacts.

“There is a correlation between cotton and high irrigation, and there’s a high correlation between cotton growth and water scarcity and high water risk areas,” said Petrie.

Still, putting all the blame on the cotton plant is misguided. While farmers bear some responsibility, things like global warming and lack of oversight are beyond their control.

For example, the Aral Sea. While it is true that cotton farming was scaled up around Central Asia by the then ruling Soviet Union Government, it was the diversion of rivers away from the landlocked sea for unsustainable irrigation, all for quick cash from cottonexports, that was to blame for the disaster.

“The Aral Sea is a real tragedy of modern times,” said Barnes, “But there was nothing intrinsic about cotton that contributed to that problem.”

The truth is, we need cotton. As a product, it has numerous advantages. It is durable, recyclable, and provides livelihoods to millions. It’s main competitors – synthetics such as polyester, or leather – are rife with sustainability challenges as well. Cotton is an essential part of the global economy, and that is not changing anytime soon.

“Water is not a cotton problem, it’s a world problem, and none of us have really cracked that. It just so happens that cotton production is correlated with areas that have challenges,” said Petrie.

Thus, to blame the cotton plant alone would be a folly, and ignores the important role that technology, good governance, and proper farming techniques can play in making the crop more sustainable. In fact, Cotton Inc is working directly with farmers to provide better tools to help them make smarter water decisions – and seeing real results.

“The trend over the last 30 years – for every inch of water we use in irrigation, we’re getting more cotton,” said Barnes. “We’re finding over a 70 percent increase in lbs per inch of water.” And new technology, including the growing power of data, is making things ever better.

“One of our big pushes in the last five years is use of sensors in the field to measure the soil or the plant to see if it needs water,” said Barnes. They hope to have a national app for farmers next year that taps into sensor data, and data from the national weather service, to better equip farmers with the information they need to reduce water usage.

WWF is also working with partners – including Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle, and numerous other global brands – to improve cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative. Their goal is to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future, by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity.

This means understanding that cotton’s life-cycle water usage and consumption, however, is not just what happens in the fields. Throughout the entire supply chain water is used, whether it is processing, printing, or even consumers washing and drying cotton products at homes across the world.

“Not much visibility from one end to another,” said Petrie. “There are 20 steps between the brand and cotton field. Cotton is traded as a commodity which means its hard to trace without a lot of effort.

This is a fundamental challenge for the industry.”

Both Cotton Inc, and WWF, have commissioned extensive, detailed reports and studies to figure out the whole picture of cotton’s water footprint, because unless we truly understand cotton at every phase of its, we can’t make it sustainable. In a future piece, we’ll look at the entire supply-chain water impacts of cotton to better understand the big picture.

*This story first appeared on The Triple Pundit

Levi’s Takes Water Conservation to the Classroom

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Partnering with children’s book publisher Scholastic and the Project WET Foundation, Levi Strauss & Co. has created an educational program about water preservation reaching approximately 1.5 million American students through classroom-based lessons and a conservation-themed sweepstakes.

Project WET, a foundation that works towards teaching children about water conservation, has worked with Levi’s since 2015 when they first partnered to create a water preservation program to train Levi’s employees.

Scholastic has helped adapt Our Watery World, a program created by the Project WET Foundation with Levi’s for students grades 3–5 to learn how to reduce their water footprint at home and in school.

Consisting of three in-classroom lessons, the program gives students a deeper understanding of how their daily actions affect the limited resources of the planet. The lesson plan also teaches students how much water is used every day by common appliances.

“Water is one of the planet’s most precious resources, and it’s going to take more than just one company or individual to ensure its future. The Our Watery World program will help shape the future generations to not only be aware of water’s scarcity, but their role in changing it,” said Levi’s Sustainability VP Michael Kobori.

In addition to distributing the lesson plan, students will have the opportunity to submit their water saving solutions for the Conserve Water at Your School Sweepstakes. Supported by Levi’s, the students who provide the best idea for conserving water at their school will receive a $10,000 grant to enact their proposal.

*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans

New Indian Technology for Waterless Tanning can Save Rivers

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With its breakthrough technology on waterless tanning for leather processing, the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) expects to save the rivers from the toxic chromium and sulphates effluents mixed in over 170 million litres of water every day.

The CLRI, part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), applied to patent the technology in 2014. It now has a “product” and a “process” for waterless and salt-less tanning, that would save water and the environment.
“To treat one kilogram of animal skin and hide about 50 litres of water is used. It’s required to wash the salts used by the tanners at primary stage to preserve the leather, making the effluents hazardous. With the dry tanning technology this would stop,” B. Chandrasekaran, Director CSIR-CLRI, told IANS.

He said that CLRI offers “Dry Tanning” as a product and another “Waterless Chrome Tanning” as a process, that requires training the tannery workers for using salts for preserving the animal skins at primary processing level.

The CLRI technology uses a conventional drum-tanning method, in which instead of lime and water, a CSIR’s patented additives are mixed. That saves water and also helps reduce the solid waste produced by lime and other chemicals.

“The technology reduces the water effluents by 90 to 95 percent,” said Chandrasekaran.

The CLRI, which is now being approached by leather companies across the globe to procure the technology, has also prepared a detailed project report (DPR) for Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where the largest number of tanneries are located in India.

“We have been contacted by several domestic tanneries and a big MNC that had offered Rs2 crore for the this technology,” he said.

Kanpur has over 23 percent of the country’s tanneries and uses about 20 million litres of water every day. Most of this untreated effluent flows out through over 23 major open drains into the Ganga river and are the major cause of its pollution.

“A DPR for Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP) for Kanpur is being finalised. The main problem is that only a few tanneries in Kanpur treat the effluents,” he said.

There are also several unauthorised tanneries in Kanpur region and about 100 were closed two years back.

Those operating water treatment plants only give primary treatment to the used water. According to environment activists, there is no proper monitoring of such treatment plants. According to green activists, it is a similar case with the tanneries of Kolkata and Tamil Nadu.

*This story first appeared on The Times of India



Patagonia’s New Study Finds Fleece Jackets Are a Serious Pollutant

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The brand commissioned a study to find out how many synthetic microfibers—the tiny bits of plastic that marine scientists say could be jeopardizing our oceans—are shed from its jackets in the wash. The results aren’t pretty.

Your washing machince deserves a closer look. Photo: Urs Siedentop/Stocksy

It all started on a beach in southwestern England in the early 2000s. Richard Thompson, then a senior lecturer at Plymouth University (where he now serves as professor of marine biology), was leading a team of graduate students researching microplastics in marine environments. Examining samples of sandy sediment, they expected to find degraded bits of marine plastic from decades-old flotsam or plastic beads that were becoming widely used in cleaners. To their surprise, most of the plastic fragments were fibrous, which meant they likely came from clothing, rope, or some types of packaging.

Then, in 2011, Mark Browne, one of Thompson’s former graduate students, published a study in which he examined sediment sampled from 15 beaches around the world. He found high concentrations of polyester and acrylic fibers in samples taken near wastewater treatment plants. He then ran a polyester fleece jacket through the wash and filtered 1,900 fibers from the wastewater—fibers that otherwise would have gone to the local wastewater treatment plant. Browne started reaching out to apparel makers to see if they’d help fund research to study this issue more deeply—eventually, he hoped, finding tweaks to fabric design or apparel construction that would stop the microfibers from entering wastewater. He received one offer of help—from women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher—but Patagonia, Columbia, and other big brands declined, saying they didn’t know if the fibers were anything they needed to worry about.

Fast-forward four more years, and the fibers finally got everyone’s attention. The science was piling on, showing that wastewater treatment plants couldn’t filter out all synthetic fibers, and that toxins such as DDT and PCBs can bind to them as they make their way into watersheds. It also showed that small aquatic species ingest the fibers, and that fish and bivalves sold for human consumption also contain microfibers. Experiments have shown that microplastics can lead to poor health outcomes in some species, and research is underway to find out how the plastics affect humans.

Jill Dumain, director of environmental strategy at Patagonia, was one of the people paying attention to all the news. In early 2015, she and the company’s leadership decided to commission a study to find out if and how Patagonia’s iconic and well-loved fleeces and some other synthetic products were contributing to the problem. The results recently came in, and they’re not good.

The study, performed by graduate students at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that during laundering, a single fleece jacket sheds as many as 250,000 synthetic fibers—significantly more than the 1,900 fibers Browne first recorded. Based on an estimate of consumers across the world laundering 100,000 Patagonia jackets each year, the amount of fibers being released into public waterways is equivalent to the amount of plastic in up to 11,900 grocery bags.

The experiment involved five pieces of apparel: three Patagonia fleece jackets, each with slightly different construction, as well as a nylon shell jacket that contains polyester insulation, plus a fifth specimen—a “budget” fleece jacket made by an undisclosed brand. Replicates of each jacket were washed multiple times, both in front-loading and top-loading washing machines. The effluent from each cycle was collected and put through a two-step filtration system that captured fibers with both a 333- and 20-micrometer mesh screen.

The jackets were then put through a 24-hour “killer wash,” which Patagonia uses to simulate the aging of a garment. The researchers did this to test whether older garments might shed more fibers as they age. After repeating the washing tests on these artificially aged jackets, they saw that age indeed increases fiber release by 80 percent.

In previous studies, researchers counted the total number of fibers, but that was not a viable path for this study, which instead calculated their mass. “We fully intended to do counts, but in the volumes of water that we collected and filtered, there were simply so many—hundreds of thousands—of fibers [from each test], we knew quickly that even with five of us [on the research team] we did not have time or energy to [do individual counts],” says Stephanie Karba, the lead researcher on the UCSB team.

Using an equation widely used in the textile industry to determine fiber count based on mass, researchers found that the highest estimate of fibers released from a single jacket was 250,000, and the average across all jackets was 81,317 fibers.

Hoping to publish its detailed methodology in a science journal, the team hasn’t revealed all its findings. But in addition to data about fiber release, the Patagonia report shows that fiber loss is directly related to the type of washing machine and the age of the garment. Garments released five times as many microfibers when washed in top-loading washing machines compared to front-loaders. And aging affected fiber loss differently for different garments based on the type of washer. For example, compared to Patagonia jackets, the average mass of fiber shed from the budget jacket of undisclosed origin was much higher when it was washed at the new stage in a front-loader. But after all the jackets were aged, the Patagonia jackets shed a comparable amount of fibers to the budget jacket. In top-loaders, the budget jacket shed a comparable amount of fiber, on average, to the others when new.

Another surprise: The nylon shell jacket actually released a comparable amount of fiber to the fleece jackets in some tests, and even more in other tests, seeming to indicate that the polyester fill escaped through seams or the shell fabric.

Having reviewed the findings, Richard Thompson, the Plymouth University scientist whose work knocked over the first domino, says Patagonia’s report might be more useful for Patagonia than for the scientific community because it does not take a vastly different approach that Browne’s research. He says he’d have preferred if Patagonia’s tests had been done with the use of detergent (the UCSB researchers say detergent would have clogged the filters, which is also why Browne did not use detergent in his 2011 research) and on a wider selection of apparel items.

“The budget jacket seems to perform worse in some tests but better in others, but even if it performed consistently better or worse, you can still only reach the conclusion for that one budget jacket of unknown origin,” he says. Still, he thinks it was an important first move by industry. “Honestly, some companies might shy away from this; they might not want to open a can of worms. So it’s a environmentally responsible move and potentially quite risky, since there is not much data out there on everyone else’s apparel.”

Add to the list of concerns unique to the outdoor industry: chemical additives in performance apparel (think waterproof-breathable duds) that enter the water along with the fibers.

Of course, apparel companies are far from the only stakeholders being thrust into the spotlight. The role washing machines play in microfiber pollution is also a major concern, and scientists and apparel companies are calling on appliance manufacturers to investigate the efficacy of adding filters to washing machines to capture fibers before they enter wastewater. The problem will grow with the rise in the number of washing machines coming into use globally—Swedish statistician Hans Rosling says 2 billion of the 7 billion people on earth used washing machines in 2010, but he predicts that 5 billion out of the 9 billion humans expected to populate the earth by 2050 will use the appliances.

A study published last month showed that while wastewater treatment plants remove more than 98 percent of plastic fragments from wastewater, they still send an estimated 65 million pieces of microplastics into watersheds each day. Polyester, the main fiber used in fleece, makes up the largest share of the plastics that get through—even though it only accounts for 10.8 percent of the plastic in influent wastewater (water that enters the plant). Also, many fibers that do get captured often end up in environmental sludge, which is sometimes added to fertilizer.

To try to get ahead of the problem, Patagonia and other apparel companies have said they want to research new yarn and fabric constructions to determine whether microfiber shedding can be addressed through better design, something that’s already happening in Europe.

After a 2013 European Commission–funded research program called Mermaids found that surfactants in detergents lead to much higher fiber loss—on the order of 1 million fibers shed from a single fleece jacket—textile specialists in Spain and Italy were tasked with developing a special coating or impregnation that would be applied to the fabric during manufacture and, in theory, reduce the amount of fiber loss. More details on the program are expected in December, but researchers say the coatings being tested and developed are environmentally benign.

The Mermaids program, promoted through the Plastic Soup Foundation, an NGO based in the Netherlands, has also released some guidelines based on its initial research, including suggestions to avoid the use of detergents with high pH, powder detergents, and the use of oxidizing agents. It also suggests washing clothing in cold water and softening hard water, and it released a cheeky video to drive its point home. Clothing company G-Star, which integrates synthetic fibers sourced from plastic ocean debris into the denim jeans it sells, has partnered with the Plastic Soup Foundation to promote the Mermaid program.

In August, at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, Patagonia will present the findings to its industry peers. It hopes to partner with the Outdoor Industry Association to turn the UCSB researchers’ testing protocol into an industry standard that would enable all clothing manufacturers to set a benchmark for fiber release from their apparel products. Dumain says it’s important that companies outside the outdoor niche start tracking microfiber issues as well. And she thinks an international third-party testing standards group, such as the ASTM, which has developed testing methods for factors such as sewn seams and flammability of apparel textiles, could also take the protocol and run with it. “It’s right up their alley,” Dumain says.

Unlike laws that restrict manufacturers from adding plastic microbeads to cleaning products, no obvious legislative approaches limit microfiber pollution, and apparel makers would likely prefer to self-impose approaches to reducing fiber loss rather than find themselves in the crosshairs of regulators should scientific evidence that microfibers pose environmental dangers continue to mount.

“We knew this would be step one in testing—to prove the methodology, to understand where we were contributing to the problem, where the industry could be contributing to the problem,” says Dumain. “From here, it’s going to set up a whole lot of testing that needs to happen throughout the apparel industry.”

*This story  first appeared on Outside Online

Dyers look for Rs. 200-crore grant

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R. Vimal Kumar

Owners of dyeing units affiliated to 18 Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in Tirupur knitwear cluster are looking forward for release of Rs. 200 crore from the Centre which they sought through the State Government as a grant to offset their debts.

“Debts have arisen following the spending of Rs. 270 crore on research and development activities taken up over the last few years to improve the effluent treatment techniques and also to upgrade machinery, all with an aim to ensure we implement the zero liquid discharge (ZLD) norms stipulated by Madras High Court during the treatment of dyeing effluents,” said S. Nagarajan, president of Dyers Association of Tirupur.

According to him, a sum of Rs. 270 crore was raised by the dyeing sector entrepreneurs through bank loans and other borrowings.

The release of the grant was essential to replace some of the machines that had corroded over the years and to add more gadgets to ensure optimal utilisation of the installed capacity in the CETPs, he said.

The dyeing unit owners pointed out that utilisation levels presently stood at below 75 per cent of the installed capacity at the CETPs.

Meanwhile, a section of farmers, who had faced the brunt of industrial pollution that led to them move the court against the dyeing units, feels that the Supreme Court observation of ‘polluters pay’ in the ‘Dyeing unit owners versus Noyyal River Ayacutdars Association’ case should be respected.

“The dyeing unit owners should themselves bear the cost for any R&D activities as they were the ‘polluters’ who damaged the ecology of River Noyyal. It is their responsibility to restore the ecology and ensure further compliance of ZLD norms,” opined P. Sankaranarayanan, a farmer.

*This story first appeared on The Hindu.

‘Modelling Sustainability’ STWI Global Report launched

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Welcome to the first edition of Modelling Sustainability: the first biannual global report from the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) Projects – the largest global public-private partnership in the field of sustainable textiles today.

Textile manufacturing is amongst the largest industrial users of water and is poised for transformation. In order to inspire this transformation towards a water wise future, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and Sustainability Outlook have teamed up to share fact-based trends on how the textile industry is evolving in some key production centres.

This first edition is based on information from two key sources gathered, analysed and collated from the Sweden Textile Water Initiative’s Global Projects:

  • Data obtained from the STWI Programme where we are closely working with 80+ factories in China, India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Turkey
  • Inputs from field practitioners and experts who are actively engaged in the STWI

This reports provides a glimpse of STWI’s global benchmark database, putting such high-level data in the public domain for the first time.

Collaboration is a core value that governed this report’s development. For this issue, we interviewed participants of STWI’s award-winning pilot SWAR, who provide insights into the practicalities of collaboration among competing brands and manufacturers on establishing a common learning platform.

Download report

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding this report, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Aparna Khadelwal, Sustainability Outlook: akhandelwal@sustainabilityoutlook.in

Rami Abdelrahman, Programme Manager, STWI Projects: rami.abdelrahman@siwi.org

*This story first appeared here.

Collaborative Swedish water project wins Nordic fashion industry sustainability award

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A successful collaboration for efficiency in water consumption, energy and chemical use in the textile industry won the prestigious 2015 Habit Fashion Award for Sustainability this evening. Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR) is a joint initiative between Stockholm International Water Institute, Sida, Swedish fashion brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex, their Indian suppliers and sub-suppliers. SWAR was honoured by the Habit jury for its impact in increasing efficient water, energy and chemical use at factory level.

“SWAR piloted in 2013 in densely-populated north-western India where the groundwater situation is dire. Basin levels continue to drop at an alarming rate, and pollution continues to stagnate human development in the region. We are proud that SWAR was recognized by Habit for directly increasing the efficiency of water, energy and chemical use in textile production in a systematic, cost-­efficient, and sustainable way.’’ Said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI.

SWAR factories saved 7 per cent of their total annual water use, 360 million litres. This amount equals the daily need of more than 3.5 million people. Through its parent network, Sweden Textile Water Initiative, the successful pilot programme has now scaled up across India and in China, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Ethiopia, expanding its impact to 120 factories supplying 20 major Swedish brands.

‘Water and Energy are the most important resources for our business. Therefore our biggest driver to join SWAR was water and energy conservation. Apart from this, the cultural change in the factory, resulting from SWAR also helped us to continue our water and energy conservation activities.’ Said Mr. Anuj Batra of Bee K Bee Prints, one of the factories participating in the programme.

“SWAR has enabled us to over-perform on almost all social, environmental and business metrics that we identified at the project start. In addition, it provided clear evidence and data through exact measurements of water consumption meters, project implementation sheets for each implemented projects, and testimonials provided by the factories. This kind of accurate intelligence is often very hard to secure when working across industry borders,” said Indiska, Lindex and KappAhl jointly.

The SWAR initiative puts the value of water at the heart of resource efficiency and sustainable development solutions. The approach combines achieving measurable results with building capacities and empowering people at brand headquarters, factory, and institutional levels. It is a market-­driven approach that creates demand for sustainable water use in production, based on real risk mitigation, and supplies management solutions to meet that demand.

‘We are honoured to be awarded this significant prize and hope that sharing our success story can inspire others to enter into similar collaborations. The cooperation between Sida, SIWI and KappAhl, Lindex and Indiska achieved substantial results in both water and chemical savings and was a winning formula within itself’ says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director General of Sida.

About Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR)

SWAR is a capacity building and technical support programme for 42 suppliers and sub-suppliers to Swedish brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex in India (Delhi NCR and Rajasthan). The programme was co-funded by the brands and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and was implemented by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

About Sweden Textile Water Initiative

The Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) brings together Swedish leather and textile companies in collaboration with the specific aim of reducing water, energy and chemical use in their supply chains. The STWI secretariat is hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute. STWI Projects is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and our brands.

About SIWI

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a Stockholm-based policy institute that provides and promotes water wise solutions for sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services. SIWI organizes the annual World Water Week and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize, the Junior Stockholm Water Prize and the Stockholm Industry Water Award.

About Habit Fashion Awards

The Habit Fashion Awards are organized by the leading Scandinavian fashion trade journal Habit Sko & Mode. The Awards are in their ninth year and in 2015 the Sustainability Award was introduced for the first time. The Habit jury is comprised of leaders from Nordic fashion industry Per Engsheden, Michael Schragger from The Sustainable Fashion Academy, ASFB Secretary General Emma Ohlson, Business Sweden’s chief economist Mauro Gozzo and the CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council, Elin Frendberg.

*This story first appeared here.

The Human Cost of Water in Fashion

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Can you imagine what it’s like not to have clean drinking water because it’s been used or polluted? Whether we like it or not, producing our clothes contributes to this. Right now, this is the reality for communities in water stressed regions of fashion producing countries such as China, India and Bangladesh. When we think of the ethical footprint of fashion, labour exploitation and poor working conditions typically come to mind. This human cost of water from fashion is as urgent an ethical, as well as environmental dilemma.

The reality is that to produce clothes we use and pollute significant amounts of water. This impacts both people and the planet. Cotton growing, as well as dyeing and finishing processes are particularly water intensive. For example, about two million Olympic sized swimming pools of water are used each year to dye our clothes! The water footprint embedded in a pair of jeans can be as high as 10,000 litres! Also, the apparel supply chain cuts through many countries where water is already scarce. These include the top 10 cotton producing countries in the world such as China, India, USA, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Australia and Turkey. It is ironic that China and India produce most of the world’s garments, yet have some of its most water stressed regions!

2015-09-17-1442485581-9175229-PratibhaSyntexHuffPost.jpg Photo by permission of Pratibha Syntex

Given that the same amount of water is on the planet now as when it was formed, why are water constraints increasing and what has changed? The answer is rooted in our increased use and pollution of water – not just from fashion, but other human activities. Increased population and urbanization are key features in the growth in global demand for water for drinking, sanitation, food, and energy. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030 four billion people are expected to live in water stressed areas and global freshwater demand will exceed supply by over 40 percent if this “business as usual” continues. With the apparel market expected to grow 3-5% in the same time, demand for water will exceed supply. It’s clear that water efficiency measures alone – the mainstream fashion industry focus at present – will not solve the problem. The bottom line is that the human, environmental and business case for solving these water challenges is critical.

So how can we responsibly manage water and what does success look like? The UN Sustainable Development Goals out this month see success as a world where available and sustainably managed water is a human right for all. Solutions to get there include legislation, market and financial incentives that drive long term responsible water management. Price can be a major incentive if it reflects the true costs and benefits of water, but this is rarely the case. For example, if the cost of water and energy was accurately factored in cotton, it would cost around $US7.50 per tonne as compared to its current $US1.50 per tonne! If this was the case, sustainably produced cotton would be cheaper than conventional cotton. Other parts of the solution include infrastructure and technology that can leapfrog improvements and collaborations to scale action quickly.

The good news for fashion is that potential solutions from brands, suppliers, governments and NGOs have begun to emerge. On the government front, China’s 2015 “Water Ten Plan” is the country’s most stringent water policy to date. Under this, textiles are among the industries being hit hardest to clean up its act. According to Debra Tan, Director of China Water Risk, “Fashion is not only dirty, it is thirsty and since China has declared ‘war on pollution’ to protect its limited water resources, fashion faces unprecedented pressures.”

Peak Performance Dyedron jacket, Credit: Tomas Monka/Peak Performance

From brands and suppliers some innovative low water and even “zero water” fashion solutions have emerged. For example, DyeCoo’s zero water and process chemical free dye technology is being used by Nike in their (ColorDry) and in Peak Performance Dyedron jackets. For jeans, Levi Strauss & Co’s Water-Less™ technology and production improvements have saved one billion litres of water since 2011. They have reduced the water used to produce a pair of Levi’s® 501® jeans to about 3800 litres. Indian textile manufacturer Pratibha Syntex uses organic farming techniques and applies best available water efficient dyeing techniques to fabric manufacturing. With an eye on the future, they are pioneers developing highly water-efficient fabrics that are not cotton dependent.

So could “low or zero water” fashion be the next trend? What would it look like to use no water to make a garment, or better still, provide a net surplus to the local community where it is produced? We are already seeing “zero” replacing “reduction” for fashion’s chemical and pollution impacts though initiatives such as the Roadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals. This trend is also seen in other sectors where there is a shift away from a “doing less bad” approach to impact reduction to “enhancing” the communities and environment a business interacts with. I look forward to fashion that always gives us style while respecting every human’s right to clean and sustainably managed water.

Dorothy Maxwell PhD is Director of The Sustainable Business Group , authors of the State of the Apparel Sector Water report for the recent Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel 2015 (GLASA) at World Water Week 2015.

**This story first appeared on Huffington Post.