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
NIKE, Inc. has announced a new strategic partnership with private equity firm Apollo Global Management, LLC, aimed at building a transparent and ethical apparel supply chain in the Americas. Through the partnership, Nike aims to increase regional manufacturing capabilities, enable quicker delivery of more customized product to consumers and drive investment in sustainability.
To establish the partnership, Apollo has established a new apparel supply chain company that is acquiring existing apparel suppliers in North and Central America, and plans to invest in advancing their manufacturing operations and expertise to produce innovative, technical and customized apparel. This new company also expects to acquire additional textile and apparel suppliers in the Americas in order to broaden and diversify its capabilities and product offerings. This will create a more vertically integrated apparel ecosystem – from materials suppliers and apparel manufacturers to final embellishment, warehousing and logistics.
“We are excited to be working with Apollo to rethink a new supply chain model to revolutionize apparel manufacturing in the Americas,” says Nike COO Eric Sprunk. “The new company, under Apollo’s leadership, is committed to embedding sustainability and transparency into the business, investing in new technology, vertically integrating critical elements of the supply chain and delivering the best Nike performance product to our retail and sports partners.”
“We see a tremendous opportunity to meet the rising demand for responsive apparel manufacturing to serve increasing consumer expectations for products delivered when and where they want them. We intend to work with management to develop a regional supplier capable of servicing the needs of a wide variety of customers, and we are particularly enthusiastic to be working with such an iconic brand as Nike,” says Josh Harris, co-founder and Senior Managing Director of Apollo. “While Nike has not made a capital investment in the company, this strategic partnership is a testament to Nike’s commitment to increasing regional manufacturing capabilities, driving investment in innovation and creating long-term growth.”
While terms of the agreements were not disclosed, Apollo says the new supply chain company has already acquired two businesses to form the cornerstone of this strategy: the apparel manufacturer, New Holland; and the embellishment, warehousing and logistics operator,ArtFX. The investment is made by the Apollo-managed Special Situations I fund.
This isn’t Nike’s first move to create “the supply chain of the future”: In May, the sportswear giant unveiled the latest expansion of its European Logistics Campus in Belgium. The expansion will make Nike’s European operations more efficient, more responsive and more sustainable, enabling growth by serving consumers across Nike.com, as well as its retail and wholesale partners in 38 countries, all from a single inventory location. Sustainable innovation informed all aspects of the facility – ex: it’s powered by 100 percent renewable energy, the structure was created to minimize its footprint from both an operational and a materials standpoint – emphasizing Nike’s vision for a low-carbon, closed-loop future as part of its growth strategy.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands
New fashion brand Oliver Cabell is “seeking to disrupt the luxury fashion business” with an unmatched level of transparency around its products. Exclusively available online, each product’s page on the company’s website details where the item was made and the costs that went into it, including the brand’s mark-up.
By working directly with Italian factories and using quality materials and responsible manufacturing processes, Oliver Cabell says it is able to offer high-quality products at a fraction of traditional luxury prices. Designing in-house, selling only online, and forgoing traditional mark-ups are some of the ways the brand is cutting costs; in stark contrast to what its founder, Scott Gabrielson, claims more established brands have done to increase their margins.
“More than three quarters of designer goods purchases come from a handful of companies. This allows these brands to mark-up its products 10-20 times what they cost to make. Bags and leather goods are the most demanded, and in turn hold the highest mark-ups,” Gabrielson said.
“When you buy fashion goods you often buy a brand. The problem is that these companies keep the brand but change the way they make things, and it has never been in the interest of consumers,” he added. “If you’re buying from high-end brands at expensive prices, you automatically assume that it’s of high quality. It’s usually not. And that’s crazy.”
With his new venture, Gabrielson hopes to offer consumers “an honest alternative” to more established brands that have failed to raise their social and environmental standards despite the expensive prices of their goods. He first0learned of the realities of the fashion industry following the infamous Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 that killed over 1,130 people in Bangladesh. He quit his job in business development at an education non-profit to pursue a Master’s degree at theUniversity of Oxford, where he focused his studies on the evolution of the fashion industry.
One experience particularly sticks out for him: “While visiting a factory in Asia we sawcramped female workers, earning $7 a day, gluing and sewing designer bags and accessories,” Gabrielson recalled. “One of the bags, which the brand claimed to only produce in Italy, cost under $100 to make. It sold for over $1,200 just down the road.”
The team at Oliver Cabell hope to tap into the shift in perspective from ‘consuming’ labels and megabrands to ‘experiencing’ and self-discovery that is being driven by Millennials. While consumers may be willing to pay a higher price for a product, the company asserts that the price should be justified by its quality. Related to this, Gabrielson noted, “We hope Oliver Cabell relates to people differently than traditional fashion brands. We believe that telling the story behind our products and providing value will do more for us marketing-wise than any big advertising initative.”
Oliver Cabell is inviting consumers to “Hold on to the Good,” with itsfirst bags – a weekender duffle and a slim backpack, each available in three colors – which became available for sale today. Both are made completely in Italy: They are manufactured in an artisan factory in Marche, use cotton from a mill in Montappone, and use leather from a tannery in Monte Urano. Oliver Cabell claims it evaluates every supplier “on factors such as environmental and ethical standards.”
As a whole, the ethical fashion movement has been growing. From exposés on cotton sustainability, to Fashion Revolution’sTransparency Index and annual awareness campaign, to startups creating more durable clothes in the fight against ‘fast fashion,’ brands are facing more and more pressure to raise their social and environmental standards. Furthermore, companies are beginning to launch footprint-measuring and traceability tools to give consumers added transparency, such as Reformation’s RefScale, which shows the environmental footprint associated with each of the small brand’s products, and Dutch Awearness’ Circular Content Management System, which uses barcodes to ensure full traceability and is available for other producers to use.
Some in the space recognize that the industry’s practices need to change. For example, luxury apparel manufacturer Kering recently called for more collaboration to improve sustainability performance and drive innovation.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands
A synthetic spider silk parka, luxury knitwear made from deadstock yarns, and one-of-a-kind pieces from unwanted locally sourced materials are the latest sustainable clothing options.
The Moon Parka is the first product successfully made of synthetic spider silk materials – the result of over 11 years of research, 10 design iterations, and 656 gene synthesis designs. Japanese advanced biomaterials company Spiber created the prototype outerwear jacket in partnership with The North Face, and expects to deliver the final product next year.
Named for the home of the most distant and harshest polar region mankind has reached, the Moon Parka was created thanks to biomimicry. Spiber’s researchers were inspired by the extremely strong and flexible threads that spiders produce with biological proteins. Over a decade of development led to the synthetic fiber used in the Moon Parka, called Qmonos, from the Japanese word for spider web. It is produced through an industrial fermentation process that involves micro-organisms producing proteins.
With the Moon Parka as a proof of concept for the spider silk fiber, Spiber hopes to revolutionize the apparel industry. The company has also set its sights on the automotive and medical device industries for future product development. Ford Motor Company researchers are also looking to biomimicry for inspiration, focusing on geckos’ sticky toe pads to improve adhesives and recyclability.
Meanwhile, despite a growing number of recycling, upcycling and chemical-separation initiatives throughout the fashion industry, a lot of existing textiles are going to waste around the world — so much so that UK waste-reduction charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) recently announced a three-year, €3.6 million commitment to reduce clothing waste across Europe.
Designer Eleanor O’Neill is doing her part with an even smaller initiative through her studio in England. The lone producer behind her Study 34 label hand-makes clothing using leftover luxury yarn. It is not uncommon for manufacturers to dispose of high-quality yarns if there is not enough left to produce a complete line of garments. O’Neill buys the remnants in bulk and produces limited knitwear collections.
“There are a number of suppliers in the UK who buy and sell end-of-line yarns which are really high quality and, apart from anything else, you can’t usually buy these luxury yarns is such small quantities elsewhere,” O’Neill told Ecouterre. “So I thought here is an outlet and I have a skill, let’s put them together and see how it goes! I think it’s important for a brand to offer something different.”
The sweaters in her newly released Autumn/Winter 2015 line range from £185-215 (US$285-330). O’Neill says that Study 34 pieces are made to last a lifetime with proper care.
“One of the aims of Study 34 is to convey to the customer how a garment is made in the hope that once they can see the time and skill that goes into making clothing it will encourage them to value it more,” she says. “It’s a sad fact but I think getting to a stage where people treasure and look after their clothes enough not to throw them out within a few months would be classed as a revolution right now.”
Yet, in this era of fast fashion, is using leftover raw materials enough? Recycling materials seems essential in reducing the fashion industry’s negative impacts.
Enter social enterprise Space Between. An initiative of Massey University’s School of Design, Space Between is using a designer-led approach and collaborating with local partners in New Zealand to address sustainability issues. Current and past students of the school are able to develop their entrepreneurial capabilities while reducing waste and resource depletion.
The clothing pieces are known as “The Fundamentals,” and are made on-demand, year-round rather than seasonally in batches. They are produced by Earthlink Inc, a non-profit organization that provides work for people facing workplace challenges. Space Between also partnered with New Zealand Post Group and corporate uniform manufacturer Booker Spalding to identify more sustainable disposal methods for end-of-life retail and postal uniforms, such as upcycling them into The Fundamentals pieces. Get more insight into the process here.
Jennifer Whitty, Senior Lecturer of Fashion Design at Massey University and director of Space Between, said the goal of the project is to “develop alternative connections between design, manufacturing systems, and consumption habits.” She hopes the partnerships will create a mutually beneficial local industry and alter the conventional designer-manufacturer relationship.
Space Between is also affiliated with university research related to waste reduction in the industry, under the banner Fashion Lab. They consider models of making zero-waste garments and aim to challenge the norms of consumption and retail.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands.
If washing and drying clothes is a major culprit in the environmental waste wars, what if there were more natural fabrics that repelled stains, resulting in fewer washings? One such solution, introduced by Kelby & Co. at the Fashion Tech Lab demo day this summer, is being rolled out in the market next month.
Dropel fuses hydrophobic (water- & stain-repellent) nanotechnology with cotton fibers to create enhanced cotton that resists stains as stubborn as soy sauce and red wine. Spills can be rinsed off with a squirt of water.
Founders Sim Gulati and Brad Feinstein are working with cotton now, though they say they have the capabilities to blend all types of natural fabrics such as cashmere, silk, linen and wool.
“Maintaining natural feel (softness), breathability, draping and all other fabric characteristics are our differentiators,” Feinstein says.
He says Dropel is working in the types of innovation usually reserved for polyester.
“We want to move away from synthetics towards a world where we can use natural textiles with added benefits that require less energy and resources in the process,” he says. ”We’ve used synthetics for decades and we believe we’re at a point now where we no longer need to resort to petroleum-based fabrics for innovative properties. We provide a sustainable alternative.”
The proprietary development process was designed in a research lab and adapted for mass-scale manufacturing. Feinstein and Gilutai have filed their first patent application for Dropel.
While the company is currently working with a handful of luxury menswear ecommerce companies, the team sees the fabric as being suitable for women’s and children’s wear, home furnishings, and uniforms. Dropel Fabrics is expected to come to market soon – the company has begun trials with several brands for Spring and Summer 2016, with some doing full garment manufacturing with the company and others sourcing the fabric. Regardless, the company says brands like that the innovative fabric with embedded technology is a purchase consumers can feel good about.
“We feel sustainability and environmental care are elements of our value proposition,” Feinstein says.
Dropel is the latest in a spate of recent fabric innovations aimed at decreasing the environmental impact of textile production and use:
- In 2014, Scientists at City University in Hong Kong revealed a new treatment for cashmere that enables it to self-clean with some help from the sun. The technology coats cashmere fibers with tiny particles of the mineral anatase titanium dioxide. When exposed to sunlight for 24 hours, the mineral starts a chemical reaction creating oxidants that act as tiny electric currents to break down dust, dirt, bacteria and even trickier stains such as coffee and wine. If the project succeeds and is commercialized, it could lead to substantial savings on energy, water, washing liquids and dry cleaning chemicals.
- In April, textile upcycler Worn Again announced a partnership with H&M and Kering to trial a first-of-its-kind textile-to-textile chemical recycling technology that is able to separate and extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles. Once separated, the aim is for this unique process to enable the ‘recaptured’ polyester and cellulose from cotton to be spun into new fabric, creating a circular resource model for textiles.
- In August, Swiss upcycled bag and clothing brand Freitag expanded its F-abric line of European-grown and -produced workwear with a compostable, cotton-free jean — the E500 jean line will comprise 81 percent linen and 19 percent hemp. The jeans will contain neither rivets nor nylon thread, making each pair 100 percent compostable after the removal of buttons.
- In September, adidas announced Sport Infinity, the sportswear giant’s plan for a new breed of sporting goods that will never be thrown away. Instead, football (soccer) players will be able to constantly reimagine and recycle their dream products using an inexhaustible 3-D “super-material.” The company’s goal is for every gram of sportswear to eventually be broken down to be remolded again into new products in a waste-free, adhesive-free process
- And just last month, Levi Strauss launched its Levi’s Wellthread™ Collection, which touts a holistic approach to sustainable product design: The line was made in 100 percent cotton for easier recyclability, by empowered workers — and includes the first garments to feature Levi’s Water<Less™ fabric, which saves more than 65 percent of the water in the dye process, as well as Water<Less denim finishes, which use up to 50 percent less water.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands.
H&M Film Asserts, ‘There Are No Rules in Fashion But One: Recycle Your Clothes’
Knowing how conventional cotton is grown and denim is made, always-a-better-way outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has set out to change the industry. The company has partnered with chemical company Archroma on a new denim collection, launched this week — which is Fair Trade certified and said to use 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less CO2 compared to conventional denim dyeing processes — as well as a campaign telling us all about it.
Patagonia says the “filthy business” of producing conventional denim drove it to rethink the entire process. Typically, denim production involves the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides to grow conventional cotton; dying it produces millions of gallons of wastewater; and jeans are often sewn in factories where workers may not be treated fairly.
Patagonia’s new dyeing and manufacturing process uses dyes that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource-intensive and environmentally destructive indigo dyeing, rinsing and garment-washing process used to create traditional denim. This results in much shorter production lines that consume significantly less water and energy and emits 25 percent less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing. Because Patagonia doesn’t sandblast, bleach or stonewash its denim to make it look worn, it also avoids the serious social and environmental downsides of doing so. And all Patagonia denim is made with organic cotton, which eliminates chemical and synthetic fertilizers, poisonous pesticides or herbicides. Patagonia® Denim uses an innovative dye process that bonds color more readily to denim fabric.
“Traditional denim is a filthy business. That drove us to change the way our jeans are made,” said Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s Business Unit Director of Sportswear. “We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim. It took several years of research, innovation, trial and error, but the result is a new path for denim. We’re hopeful other manufacturers will follow suit and help us change the denim industry.”
The Fair Trade program’s market-based approach helps workers receive fair compensation for their labor, while creating better working conditions and safeguarding against the use of child labor. In addition to the six denim styles, Patagonia has grown its Fair Trade clothing styles from 33 in spring 2015 to 192 in fall 2015.
**This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands here.