The water challenge: How can the textile industry lighten its environmental load?

The water challenge for the textile industry is two-fold: reducing overall levels of water consumption and ensuring that contaminated wastewater is dealt with in an environmentally friendly manner. Further innovation is required to move the industry forward.

At Catexel, we have sought to present innovative solutions to some of the textile industry’s specific challenges and in 2011, we launched our Pegasus catalyst to enable low temperature bleaching of cotton.

The Pegasus catalyst enhances the activity of the hydrogen peroxide used in the bleaching phase, so less energy is required for the reaction and the operating temperature can be reduced by up to 30°C. Not only does this reduce energy consumption and production time, but it also produces a softer feeling, higher quality cotton, with improved yields. Launching this product led us to better understand some of the other challenges faced by the industry and, thus, we were made aware of the effluent treatment issues posed by dye wastewater.

Our Dragon catalyst is a manganese based complex, which when used under certain conditions, is highly effective at removing tea stains from crockery and you will likely find some of it in your dishwasher tablets at home. Our researchers realised that the compounds responsible for colour in common dyes had some chemical similarities to stains that Dragon is known to remove. They hypothesised that Dragon, in combination with hydrogen peroxide, could be used to break down these dye compounds and so began a series of tests.

Initial results confirmed that Dragon and hydrogen peroxide was extremely effective at breaking down a range of reactive and acid dyes – this was shown to happen rapidly, i.e. in less than 30 mins, at relatively mild temperatures (50°C).

Following the proof of concept, we tested the Dragon/hydrogen peroxide process in a simulated dye bath. We recognised that using Dragon to treat a large body of effluent water would not be the most efficient use. Instead, using Dragon/hydrogen peroxide in the rinse off process itself would reduce the amount of coloured effluent at the point of its production, and could also improve production efficiencies. One early adopter in India provided feedback on the process and confirmed that they had achieved not only water savings, but also reported reduced energy consumption and improved asset utilisation.

With the increasing pressure on our water resources worldwide, the textile industry must find ways to reduce its consumption and to effectively treat its complex wastewater streams. While there is still much debate over where responsibility for sustainability should lie, the truth is that is we all have a part to play.

Our catalysts are just some of the many technologies available to help industry reduce water consumption and enable the re-use of this scarce resource via more effective, and less environmentally damaging treatment.

Achieving faster, cleaner, safer ways of working to reduce water consumption and improve water treatment will not happen overnight. Despite the tangible benefits these technologies offer to industries looking to ‘do more with less’, there is still resistance to change – but by working together, we can identify and implement solutions that offer sustainable benefits that are both environmentally, technically and economically viable.

To explore how a collaborative approach across the supply chain could help lighten the textile industry’s environmental load, download our white paper by clicking here.

By Liz Manning, Business Development Manager at Catexel

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