ner and patent attorney and associate at Withers & Rodgers, Dr Joanna Thurston and Naomi Higginson looks at how a fresh wave of tech-led disruptors are attempting to clean up the world of fast style.
The global textile industry has been identified as the second largest industrial polluter after the aviation sector, as well as consumers have become more aware of the damage that it is causing to the environment and communities in underdeveloped areas of the world.
Much of the problem stems from the popularity of fast style, which has led to consumers in Western countries buying more clothes more frequently, only to dispose of them after a couple of wears or at the end of the season.
A study by Aalto University has revealed that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global pollution and also textile production generates a staggering 92 million tonnes of waste per year.
Attitudes are changing however, and high-profile news reports have drawn attention to the social and environmental impact of textile waste, which is typically shipped in large quantities to countries in West Africa or South America to be “recycled” or “resold”.
Arriving in container loads, much of this textile waste reaches its destination in a damaged condition, so it can’t be reused. As a result, this waste is incinerated or ends up in landfill.
However, greater awareness of the problem is leading to a change of behaviour, with more Western consumers choosing to buy second-hand clothing and recycle or donate their used clothing. Some are also choosing to buy products made from textiles that are manufactured more sustainably and can be recycled more easily.
Counting the environmental cost
The textile industry negatively impacts the environment in a variety of ways; two key areas being the use of potentially polluting chemicals and energy-intensive production methods.
For natural fibres, such as cotton, the environmental impact begins in the field, due to the use of mechanised irrigation systems to keep crops watered in countries where water supplies are already depleted.
Synthetic fertilisers are also used to optimise yields by controlling pests and weeds, even though that one ton of nitrogen fertiliser emits greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly seven tons of CO2.
For synthetic fibres, such as polyester, the environmental impact can be greater, largely due to the fibres often being sourced from fossil fuels, and as a result of the use of chemicals in polymer production.
Regardless of whether natural or synthetic fibres are being used, dyeing and finishing processes also have a significant environmental impact. Potentially hazardous chemicals tend to be used in large volumes, although only a small amount stays attached to the fibres.
The rest – such as chlorine dioxide from bleaching, hydrocarbons and ammonia from fabric printing, or ammonia from fabric-finishing operations – is washed away in wastewater or released into the atmosphere, polluting nearby water courses and impacting biodiversity, potentially causing respiratory disease.
Becoming more circular
Reducing the environmental impact of global textile production is a multi-faceted problem, requiring major shifts in behaviour as well as a focus on technological innovation.
Many large-scale textile producers are operating large plants with machinery that can’t easily be adapted to run in a cleaner and more sustainable way. Installing renewable energy systems requires significant upfront investment and creating circular energy loops in this type of environment is not easy to achieve.
Instead, the pathway to a circular textile economy is being led by smaller tech-led innovators, some of which are spinouts from university research departments. Many of them are involved in the development of new fibre recycling technologies, such as finding ways to deal with impurities by separating polyester blends or innovating cleaner dyeing methods.
As an example of the latter, DyeRecycle, a spinout from Imperial College London, has developed a circular chemical technology to decolour textile waste and reuse old dyes.
In other cases, innovators are developing new dyes that are less polluting by design, such as faster bleaching processes, or totally new fibres that have been designed and developed with the circular economy in mind, such as “Lyocell” and “Tencel”, both of which are made by Lenzing, and “Kapok”, made by Flocus.
An analysis of recent license-filing activity In Europe, conducted by Withers & Rogers, has shed light on some of the cutting-edge innovations involved in developing a circular textile economy. Much of this innovation activity is focused on cleaning up production processes, particularly those that use harmful chemicals, and facilitating recyclability.
US company, Kintra Fibers is looking for ways to clean up the production of polybutylene succinate, a resin of the polyester family. The company has a European license (EP3986832) pending for a mener and also patent lawyer as well as partner at Withers & Rodgers, Dr Joanna Thurston as well as Naomi Higginson checks out just how a fresh wave of tech-led disruptors are trying to tidy up the globe of quick style.
The worldwide fabric sector has actually been recognized as the 2nd biggest commercial polluter after the aeronautics market, as well as customers have actually come to be a lot more familiar with the damages that it is triggering to the setting as well as areas in underdeveloped locations of the globe.
Much of the trouble originates from the appeal of quick style, which has actually resulted in customers in Western nations purchasing even more clothing a lot more often, just to throw away them after a number of uses or at the end of the period.
A research by Aalto College has actually exposed that the garment industry represent 10% of worldwide air pollution as well as fabric manufacturing produces a shocking 92 million tonnes of waste each year.
Mindsets are altering nevertheless, as well as prominent report have actually accentuated the social as well as ecological effect of fabric waste, which is commonly delivered in big amounts to nations in West Africa or South America to be “reused” or “marketed”.
Getting here in container lots, a lot of this fabric waste reaches its location in a broken problem, so it can’t be recycled. Therefore, this waste is blazed or winds up in garbage dump.
Nonetheless, higher recognition of the trouble is bring about a modification of behavior, with even more Western customers picking to get pre-owned apparel as well as reuse or contribute their made use of apparel. Some are additionally picking to get items made from fabrics that are produced a lot more sustainably as well as can be reused a lot more quickly.
Counting the ecological price
The fabric sector adversely influences the setting in a range of means; 2 vital locations being using possibly contaminating chemicals as well as energy-intensive manufacturing techniques.
For all-natural fibers, such as cotton, the ecological effect starts in the area, as a result of using mechanised watering systems to maintain plants sprinkled in nations where water products are currently diminished.
Artificial fertilizers are additionally made use of to optimize returns by managing insects as well as weeds, despite the fact that that lots of nitrogen fertilizer sends out greenhouse gas exhausts comparable to almost 7 lots of carbon dioxide.
For artificial fibers, such as polyester, the ecological effect can be higher, mostly as a result of the fibers typically being sourced from nonrenewable fuel sources, and also also as an outcome of using chemicals in polymer manufacturing.
Despite whether all-natural or artificial fibers are being made use of, coloring as well as ending up procedures additionally have a substantial ecological effect. Possibly dangerous chemicals have a tendency to be made use of in big quantities, although just a percentage remains connected to the fibers.
The remainder – such as chlorine dioxide from lightening, hydrocarbons as well as ammonia from material printing, or ammonia from fabric-finishing procedures – is removed in wastewater or launched right into the ambience, contaminating close-by water programs as well as affecting biodiversity, possibly triggering respiratory system condition.
Ending up being a lot more round
Decreasing the ecological effect of worldwide fabric manufacturing is a multi-faceted trouble, calling for significant changes in behavior along with a concentrate on technical advancement.
Several large fabric manufacturers are running big plants with equipment that can’t quickly be adjusted to run in a cleaner as well as a lot more lasting method. Setting up renewable resource systems calls for substantial ahead of time financial investment as well as developing round power loopholes in this kind of setting is challenging to attain.
Rather, the path to a round fabric economic climate is being led by smaller sized tech-led pioneers, several of which are spinouts from college study divisions. Much of them are associated with the advancement of brand-new fiber reusing modern technologies, such as locating means to manage pollutants by dividing polyester blends or introducing cleaner coloring techniques.
As an instance of the last, DyeRecycle, a spinout from Imperial University London, has actually actually created a round chemical innovation to decolour fabric waste in addition to reuse old dyes.
In various other situations, pioneers are establishing brand-new dyes that are much less contaminating deliberately, such as faster lightening procedures, or absolutely brand-new fibers that have actually actually been created as well as created with the round economic climate in mind, such as “Lyocell” as well as “Tencel”, both of which are made by Lenzing, as well as “Kapok”, made by Flocus.
An evaluation of current patent-filing task In Europe, performed by Withers & Rogers, has actually actually clarified several of the innovative advancements associated with establishing a round fabric economic climate. Much of this advancement task is concentrated on tidying up manufacturing procedures, specifically those that utilize dangerous chemicals, as well as assisting in recyclability.
United States firm, Kintra Fibers is seeking means to tidy up the manufacturing of polybutylene succinate, a material of the polyester family members. The firm has actually a European certificate (EP3986832) pending for a me