Cotton Contamination is a Global Issue


Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

Trash and foreign matter contamination are major issues facing the global cotton sector. Recently, a high-level Indian delegation from the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), under the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, visited United States to explore the cotton industry of the High Plains of Texas.

The goal of our visit was to learn more about the High Plains’ cotton production systems, operations for contaminant free cotton and cotton classing, stated Mr. Sajjan Kumar Bansal, Manager-Planning of CCI, Mumbai.

While visiting a gin in Lubbock, the group was impressed to know how the United States’ gins maintain quality with less fiber breakage, even though saw ginned and keep the trash content to be minimal. Multiple levels of drying the seed cotton and the use of pre-cleaners such as inclined cleaners help with keeping the trash under control.

Trash and contamination in cotton lint remain important problems worldwide. “In the United States, we have a good handle on contamination originating from the cotton plant itself, but contamination from plastic such as grocery bags and module covers is a major concern. The industry is very aware of this issue and works tirelessly to eliminate this source of contamination. Several research groups in the United States and in Australia work on early detection and removal of plastic contaminants,” stated Professor Eric Hequet, Chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Lubbock-based Texas Tech University.

As Indian cotton is handpicked, theoretically, trash levels should be lower, which is not the case. Poor seed cotton handling at the farm yards and storage facilities in farmers’ houses result in higher trash levels. Additionally, plastic contamination arises for polyethylene and jute packaging in India. As the plastic contamination is also the situation in the United States, the contamination issue is gaining due attention globally.

In India, the trash content before ginning is about 7% and after ginning, trash is about 2.5 to 3% stated, Sajjan Bansal. The take home message for the Indian delegation was how organized the United States’ cotton sector is, from farm to processing to marketing, stated Bansal.