Textile dyeing accounts for one fifth of all industrial wastewater pollution generated worldwide and much of it, particularly in developing countries in Asia, goes untreated. Now, China is employing electron beams to treat effluent from textile dyeing plants, ushering in a new era for radiation technology.
“Despite advances in conventional wastewater treatment technology in recent years, radiation remains the only technology that can treat the most stubborn colorants in wastewater,” said Suni Sabharwal, Radiation Processing Specialist at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). “The problem is that the technology exists in developed countries, while most of the need now is in the developing world.”
To bridge the knowledge gap, the IAEA ran a coordinated research project on the technology, including its transfer to several countries, mostly in Asia. Chinese researchers, for example, have benefited from the advice of experts from Hungary, Korea and Poland in the adoption of the technology and the construction of the plant, said Jianlong Wang, Deputy Director of the Nuclear and Energy Technology Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the principal researcher behind the project.
The new plant in Jinhua city, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, will treat 1500 cubic meters of wastewater per day, around a sixth of the plant’s output. “If everything goes smoothly, we will be able to roll out technology to the rest of the plant and eventually to other plants across the country,” Wang said.
Before opting for radiation technology using electronic beams, Chinese researchers had run an extensive set of feasibility experiments using the effluent from the plant, comparing electron beam technology with other methods. “Electron beam technology was the clear winner as both the more ecological and more effective option,” Wang added.
Other countries with large textile manufacturing industries, such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, are also considering introducing the technology with the assistance of the IAEA. India is already using gamma irradiation to treat municipal sewage sludge.
In standard wastewater treatment, bacteria are used to digest and breakdown pollutants. However, the molecules in textile effluent cannot be treated with bacteria. To color textiles, compounds with large, long and complex chains are used. Wastewater from the industry can contain more than 70 complex chemicals that do not easily degrade.
By irradiating the effluent using electron beams, scientists can break these complex chemicals into smaller molecules, which, in turn, can be treated and removed using normal biological processes. Irradiation is done using short-lived reactive radicals than can interact with a wide range of pollutants and break them down.
Chinese researchers are also considering the use of electron beam technology to treat residues from pharmaceutical plants that produce antibiotics. These residues are currently handled as hazardous waste because they contain antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes that cannot be destroyed using conventional technologies, such as composting or oxidation. Research has revealed that electron beam technology can effectively decompose the residual antibiotics and antibiotic resistance genes, Wang explained. The establishment of a demonstration plant at an industrial scale is planned for later this year.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands
Patagonia today announced a strategic investment in a chemical company focused on making high-performance textile treatments based on natural raw materials.
Beyond Surface Technologies, a Swiss firm, was founded in 2008 by scientists and marketing experts with more than 40 years of experience in the textile industry. They left careers at big chemical companies to build a business based on the premise that it is possible to make textile treatments based on natural raw materials — without sacrificing performance or reducing the lifespan of a product.
The investment comes through Patagonia’s “$20 Million & Change” fund, which launched in 2013 to “help innovative, like-minded companies bring solutions to the environmental crisis and other positive change through business.”
Chemicals are a required component in achieving the high performance needed for harsh outdoor conditions — it’s what makes waterproof materials stand up to torrential wilderness downpours, jackets that can resist wind on a steep pitch and pants that have the right amount of protection as you’re knee-deep in fresh powder, Patagonia says.
However, these chemicals which are relied on for technical performance can be toxic and persist in the environment, a serious issue Patagonia says it is tackling aggressively. It plans to share any breakthroughs Beyond Surface Technologies may produce with the entire outdoor industry in order to amplify the environmental impact to the greatest extent possible.
“Patagonia’s investment gives us the opportunity to accelerate testing and reduce time to market for our pipeline of groundbreaking new treatments for the entire apparel industry, Matthias Foessel, CEO of Beyond Surface Technologies said in a statement. “Patagonia is enabling us to grow even faster — benefiting the environment and enhancing product performance — while remaining completely independent and in control of the original founders.”
In related chemicals news, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute late last year announced it would begin offering a Material Health Certificate, a tool for manufacturers across industries to communicate their work toward chemically optimized products. The Material Health Certificate marks the first time the Institute has offered reporting of its comprehensive methodology in only one category.
** This post first appeared on Sustainable Brands here.
The central bank will set aside $500 million of low-cost funds for textile factories to help them adopt eco-friendly technologies and practices, Governor Atiur Rahman said yesterday.
The money will come in addition to the existing export development fund (EDF) of $1.5 billion and will be named Green EDF, he told a discussion at the office of Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh in Dhaka.
PRI organised the discussion on “access to finance: environmental sustainability in the textile sector” in association with the International Finance Corporation.
Rahman came up with the decision instantly after a number of bankers and economists stressed the need for such a fund for the textile sector.
At present, Bangladesh Bank is offering the EDF to exporters at a rate of LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) plus 2.5 percent for six months. An exporter can borrow a maximum of $15 million in foreign currency.
“The criteria for accessing the fund by the wet processing units, which are also export-oriented or providing supplies to the garment sector, should be considered in view of the overall sustainability of the textile sector,” said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of PRI.
At the seminar, he presented a paper, which he prepared in association with Ifty Islam, managing partner of AT Capital.
Mansur said inefficient resource use and poor environmental practices are major challenges for the textile sector. The textile factories in Dhaka currently consume 1,500 billion litres of groundwater annually to produce five million tonnes of fabric, with every kg of fabric gobbling up 300 litres against the global standard of 100 litres per kg of fabric.
Mansur said making funds available does not guarantee that entrepreneurs would use the resources.
“Education and awareness is important. Besides, customs and supplementary duties should be eliminated for importing cleaner technology equipment and machinery.”
The BB governor said the country’s garment sector would not be able to reach the $50 billion export target by 2021 without adopting green technologies.
Rahman called for a separate allocation in the budget to promote green financing in the textile sector. “Budgetary allocation makes it possible to provide low-cost funds.”
The BB chief said the progress in the textile sector has also brought in multiple challenges in urban expansion, land use, workplace safety and environmental safeguards.
For example, textile dyeing and finishing units in Bangladesh are known to be hugely wasteful in water usage as they consume five times the best practice benchmark.
The toxic discharges of the industry pollute both surface and ground water which has serious consequences for all living beings.
“Long-term sustainability of the industry greatly lies in its ability to produce green textile products mainly due to growing consumer demand for eco-friendly products,” the governor said.
Rahman also said a green development policy should be incorporated into the next five-year plan of the country.
Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group, said with an initial investment of $100,000, his company was able to reduce wastage of water, energy, steam, dye and chemical worth $500,000 within a year. “So, it is a matter of mindset. It is not a big deal.”
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, said environmental sustainability is very important for the country’s mid- and long-term development.
“The country will be able to raise its garment exports to $50 billion by 2021 if the factories are eco-friendly.”
Ifty Islam said environmental sustainability has become a central point of China’s five-year plan although the country is infamous for environmental pollution. “We will have to do the same.”
Faruque Hassan, a former vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manu-facturers and Exporters Association, said the factories need financial support from the government and price support from buyers to go for eco-friendly practices.
Abrar Anwar, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bangladesh, said financing would not be available for factories if they are not eco-friendly.
Mamun Rashid, chairman of Financial Excellence Ltd, and Mrinal Sircar, programme manager of Bangladesh Water PaCT, also spoke.
** This article first appeared on the Daily Star here.