Increasingly, the fabric industry is attempting to minimize textiles’ negative environmental impact. Whether it’s through recycled fibers or environmentally-friendly finishes, there’s no lack of options for those interested in making their clothing more eco-friendly.
Using recycled fibers in the fabric is not the only best fabric for the environment but can be economically beneficial. In addition, many brands have begun incorporating more sustainable practices into their operations. These companies focus on issues such as water consumption and unfair working conditions.
The recycling process can be broken down into two stages. The raw material is separated by color and type. Next, the fibers are mechanically shredded into fibers. The yarn is spun into fabric and stitched into a garment.
Aside from consuming less energy, using recycled fibers in fabric for the environment also helps reduce pollution. For instance, recycled polyester uses approximately three-thirds less energy than virgin polyester. Also, it uses less water. The exact process creates recycled nylon fabrics.
This technique also benefits the environment by preventing waste from ending in landfills. Similarly, it can create high-performance fabrics from waste materials such as fishing nets and carpets.
Recycled polyester textiles are also harmless to all living things. The fibers from the recycled plastic strands keep falling off. It lessens the demand placed on virgin resources. To completely address the microplastics issue, though, more must be done. However, more is needed to solve the microplastic problem fully.
Currently, only a tiny fraction of clothes are recycled into new fibers. To achieve commercial volumes, a supply chain must be established.
Eco-standards and eco-Labels
During the last couple of years, the number of eco-standards and eco-Iabels for fabric for the environment has risen dramatically. It is due to mounting pressure from consumers to reduce the pollution impacts of the textile industry. Clean technologies have been introduced to cater to this growing demand.
One such standard is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). It is a textile production standard aiming to create a circular economy. It defines requirements for the organic status of textiles and establishes social and environmental criteria for all stages of the production process. The standard is accepted in all major selling markets.
Moreover, OEKO-TEX certification also verifies that the materials used for the products are not harmful to human health and the environment. This certification enables consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
In addition, the EU Ecolabel is a standard that guarantees low environmental impact throughout the product’s lifecycle. This eco-label is an internationally recognized standard that provides brand protection and offers credible assurance to consumers. The European Commission has established the eco-label with the support of stakeholders. It offers a transparent evaluation of sustainability claims and guides eco-friendly best practices during product development.
Functional finishing of cotton
Various finishing methods have been applied to cotton fabrics to impart their functional and aesthetic properties. These methods include surface treatment, coating, exhaustion, spraying, and pre-calendering. Among them, Plasma treatment and Screen-printing are considered “Environmental Friendly” finishing techniques.
Plasma surface treatment is one of the most straightforward techniques to improve cotton fabric finishing. The active species produced in plasma causes a sputtering effect on cotton and enhance the material’s performance.
The amount of formaldehyde released by these chemical finishing processes depends on the catalysts and curing conditions. The finished product may also contain some free formaldehyde.
In addition, the functional properties of cotton fabric are enhanced, such as abrasion resistance, bacteria resistance, and wrinkle recovery. These properties can be applied as medical materials or as antibacterial materials.
Screen printing is a simple technique used to apply coloring patterns to materials. It also consumes less water. Moreover, it produces less wastewater. To make wrinkle-free cotton fabrics, the finishing process must include antistatic, waterproof, and flame retardant.
Currently, most available finishing technologies directly incorporate functional agents into the textiles. These techniques may involve catalytic effects induced by co-reactants. They also include antimicrobial agents, UV blockers, fire retardants, antistatic agents, and anti-flammable materials.
Disposal of clothing textiles after application
One of the most significant aspects of the circular economy is this activity. Many discarded clothing textiles worldwide are produced and sold each year. This industry uses non-renewable resources and pollutes the environment with microplastics and toxic chemicals. One of the main difficulties facing the recycling industry is this. Reusing old clothing is one way to deal with this issue. There are several programs in place that allow people to donate their used garments and other clothing textiles to charitable organizations.
Some collection methods include donation boxes, curbside programs, fundraising events, thrift/consignment stores, and recycling centers. These methods can be utilized to benefit local communities as well as corporations. Some collected textiles are sold domestically, while others are sold abroad. Approximately half of the fabrics collected are sold as secondhand apparel. Other items are sent to rag sorters or processing facilities to be remade into new materials.
Aside from this, many corporate programs allow people to donate their used clothing and other textiles to their companies. Many non-profits support such programs. In addition, textiles are sorted and graded into different types of materials. It helps to prevent waste from happening. The process also helps to lower the cost of the overall recycling project.