An increasing number of suppliers are using natural fibers and recycled fabrics as their way of adding value to releases. Energy-saving technologies are adopted as well.
Eighty percent of China's textile mills are now capable of making "green" fabrics, including those made from colored cotton and recycled fibers. But while the trend for environment-friendly textiles is growing, such fabrics are not likely to go mainstream in the short term.
This is because manufacturing ecologically safe fabrics entails higher investment in raw material sourcing and production. Companies that are able to transition successfully, however, emphasize the earth-friendliness of their textiles as a value addition.
Suzhou CINC Textile Technologies Stock Corp. is one such supplier. The company has released fabrics made from polylactic acid, a corn-derived fiber that is also degradable. PLA textiles can be used as a substitute for polyester. Approximately 2,271L of petroleum can be saved for every 10,000 sports shirts made from PLA.
Wujiang Tang Textile Co. Ltd, on the other hand, has developed fabrics made from recycled PET. Polyester is extruded from recycled plastic bottles and spun into yarn. A ton of regenerated fibers can save 6 tons of petroleum. RPET fabrics can be used for shopping bags, luggage, garments and home textiles.
These textiles have received recycled content certification from SCS, a US-based organization that verifies environmental claims in various industries. All of the dyes and finishes have been tested by MTL and Intertek, some for compliance with GSG standards.
Suzhou Gowell-Tex Co. Ltd also offers fabrics made from recycled fibers. Despite being more expensive than traditional textiles, the company recently received an order for 1 million meters.
Using Green Technology
Apart from choosing environment-friendly fibers many makers are adopting technologies that can help promote sustainable production.
Fabric dyeing and washing entail the use of copious amounts of water, energy and chemicals. Some factories have installed recycling facilities where wastewater is treated with bacteria to eliminate impurities and harmful substances. This process can save up to 62L of water for every 1,000 yards of fabric that need to be dyed or washed.
Unfortunately, most small and midsize finished goods companies, which typically outsource dyed and washed fabrics, have difficulty encouraging their upstream suppliers to adopt eco-friendly processes. Larger makers, on the other hand, have better control over their partner factories. For instance, Ningbo Veken Elite Group Co. Ltd sends examiners to dyeing and washing facilities to help improve the wastewater treatment process.
Other suppliers choose to use naturally colored cotton as an alternative to dyeing. There is a range of colors to choose from, including red, yellow, green, gray and purple.
Printing can be a sustainable process as well. The New Wide Group adopts cold transfer printing, an environment-friendly and energy-saving technology that uses reactive dyes. Compared with traditional methods, this process can reduce water and electricity usage by 65 and 66 percent, respectively.
Hangzhou Jimay Printing & Dyeing Co. Ltd, meanwhile, has invested in imported post-finishing equipment that uses less energy.
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