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Are We Destroying Something Permanently for Temporary Benefits?

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Farzana Alam Piya, Research Assistant, Textile Focus

Textile industry is considered as one of the most hazardous industries in the world. A study of BUET team led by Mohidus Samad Khan (Faculty member at Chemical Engineering Department) predicts that by 2021, the textile and apparel sector of our country would export goods worth $50 billion a year. On average textile factories use 120 liter of water to dye and wash a kg of fabric (about two pairs of jeans) and the effluents are discharged into nearby rivers or wetlands without proper treatment. So by 2021, this industry would be dumping 20,300 crore liter of untreated wastewater into the country’s water-bodies each year.S and D final logo

Untreated effluent is a threat for fisheries, biodiversity, ecosystems, flora and fauna. But its production is increasing day by day. The government categories textile dyeing industries as “Red industries” (most polluting) under the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 and the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997 and made Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) mandatory for the factories.

According to sources in the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, the country has around 450 spinning mills, 1,200 weaving mills, 240 dyeing mills and around 5,000 export-oriented garment factories. There are also several thousand small dyeing factories called the local markets.

Department of Environment (DoE), however, claimed that they have issued ETP installation permission to 1,376 textile factories. Running the ETP is expensive. It costs BDT 20 crore to BDT 35 crore to install. Again it takes BDT 20-30 for treating one cubic meter of water and the average annual operational cost for an ETP with 50-meter cube capacity is around 13.3 million BDT.

Only 10% chemical ETPs are run as they are expensive to operate, while all the factories use the biological ETPs as they are cheap. The chemical ETPs need to be operational all the time. Again because of high expenses, in spite of having ETPs some factories do not run them regularly.

“Destroying our nature, water-bodies for temporary benefits what will we leave for our future generation?” Quazi Sarwar Imtiaz Hashmi, Additional Director General of the DoE  said, “One does not build a house without a toilet. Then why would you build a factory without an ETP? ”

They only run them during the buyer visits. On the other hand, small factories do not have ETPs due to space shortage. The unwillingness of company owner to engage in environment protection is the root cause, behind environment pollution. External pressure is essential   for Bangladesh to change.

Pathways to Minimize the Ecological Footprints of Textile Industry to the Environment:

Relying on Organic Sources

Textile dyes which are made from natural sources such as plants, minerals or animals have lesser impact to the environment. If natural dyes are not cost-effective, companies can go for eco-friendly industrial dyes, such as: biodegradable dyes, azo-free colorants, and fiber reactive dyes.

Using Sustainable Materials for Textile Production

Materials that can be reproduced in a short period of time, imposing a little or no burden to the environment are sustainable resources. Hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, alpaca wool and soy silk are sustainable fibers. Most of these don’t require using dye fixing agents insecticides and more receptive of dye products.

Reusing washing water

Textile washing requires a huge amount of water (on average 80-100L water for 1kg of fabric) to wash away the unfixed dyes from the fabric. Reusing the same water for washing can reduce the demand of water.

Water-Free or Less- Water Dyeing Technologies

Innovative dyeing technologies have been developed to minimize the use of water such as dry-dyeing (using carbon dioxide), digital printing, air-dye etc. and further researches are continuing. Industries need to adopt this up to mark technologies.

Treating Dye Effluent

Treatment of dye effluent has no alternative. There is a large variety of substances present in them and some of the known methods of treating dye effluents are incineration, biological treatment and absorption to solid matrices. Though each method have disadvantages, research is continuously going on to find the most effective treatment to lessen the impact dye effluents on the ecosystem

Setting up central ETP plants may be helpful for both big and small textile factories. It will save space and also reduce the cost. Besides, in this sector, strict monitoring is needed to save our watery bodies.

Recycling

Textile recycling is for both, environmental and economic benefits. Through recycling the life of clothes, linens, towels, and fabrics can be prolonged. Re-dyeing and restructuring can minimize the overall need of producing fabric and textile, which ultimately reduces the industry’s impact to the environment.

As our civilization advances in different industries, taking care of our environment shouldn’t be left at the sidelines. In fact, development and eco-friendly ways of doing business should go hand in hand.