Towards a better and cleaner textile industry

A life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Novozymes indicates that use of enzymes makes possible savings of up to 70,000 liters of water and 1 ton of CO2 per ton knitted fabric. It also shows a 20–25% reduction in processing time.

Textile1Higher production costs, demand for quality textiles, and environmental legislation present challenges for the textile industry. “Novozymes’ solutions can contribute to decreasing dependence in the textile industry on chemicals, lower consumption of energy and water, and bring down costs – all while maintaining superior product quality,” says Sebastian Søderberg, Business Development & Marketing Director - Textile & Leather at Novozymes.

More savings and less use of valuable resources

Water is an increasingly scarce resource. Novozymes estimates that the global knitwear production uses the same amount of water as 24 million rural Chinese people use for drinking water. Fortunately, there are ways that the textile industry can consume less – and keep it cleaner. Enzymes can combine processes to save water usage, and they can also decrease the toxicity of effluents. Enzymes also necessitate fewer rinses after one process as compared to chemicals.

Novozymes solutions can reduce water and energy usage to a great extent simply by being applied at different stages of the same textile production process. Esquel Group, a leading producer of cotton shirts and a global textile and apparel manufacturer, has performed several trials applying Novozymes’ bioinnovative solutions at the different stages of the production.

According to a Life Cycle Assessment conducted by Novozymes, Esquel Group achieved a saving of 30 cubic meters of water per ton of knitted fabric in just one single process (bleaching) by using Novozymes enzymatic solution as compared to using conventional technology. 

Effluents and toxins
Wastewater from textile mills contributes to the increased level of unwanted substances that are residuals from, for instance, surfactants, dyes, and organic matter. Some of the effluents from textile production may pass through the water treatment plant without being completely rinsed (due to various factors like extreme climatic conditions like heavy showers that can easily put the treatment plant under pressure) and go directly into the waterways contaminating the same.

Enzymes make the difference
In contrast to some chemicals such as polycarboxylates that are harder to degrade, enzymes are readily degraded into harmless compounds. Moreover, a relatively smaller dosage of enzymes is needed for textile processing as enzymes are catalytic by nature: they will actively target one molecule, dissolve it, and move on to the next. The small dosages, combined with the fact that enzymes are quickly degraded, leads to lower toxicity when using enzymes instead of traditional chemicals in the processing. 

Enzymes cannot eliminate or cut textile mills’ water consumption in half. But, in comparison with chemicals, they can contribute to lowering the critical dilution volume for toxicity and reduce water used in processing. They can also lower the expense of water and effluent treatment.
 “With our biodegradable enzymes textile producers can produce the quality that customers are asking for while providing a sustainable alternative,” concludes Sebastian.

Click here to view the video 'Clean Water Wanted' on Novozymes TV.