Microplastics and effluent issues have heightened the need for green processing of textiles

Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

Discharge of textile mill effluents and disposal of single-use textiles such as hygiene pads are watched very carefully by regulatory bodies. Therefore, textile industry has been working to find cost-effective solutions to tackle these environmental issues. Recently, a collaborative research between scientists from Kerala, the southwestern state of India and Florida has utilized supercritical carbon dioxide as a carrier to size and desize cotton.

They have identified supercritical carbon dioxide attractive chemistries such as sucrose octaacetate, glucose pentaacetate and poly ethylene glycol that can be applied to textiles via supercritical carbon dioxide at a pressure of about 90 bars, making the process cost effective.

The researchers claim the process is cost effective as it avoids other costlier functional chemistries and is environmentally friendly. Sucrose octaacetate in supercritical carbon dioxide system provided good results for cotton and polyester and the chemical is inexpensive as it is an agricultural product.

Green technologies such as supercritical fluids and plasma have been getting serious attention these days. “Typically, wet‐chemical treatments used to create surface hydrophilicity to woven and nonwoven textile materials can damage the polymer matrix and produce, as a byproduct, large volumes of hazardous waste effluents. Atmospheric pressure plasma (APP) technology is an ecofriendly alternative for obtaining similar or better results with these materials, compared to wet chemical treatments. It is also commercially recognized that the APP process can also significantly reduce dye consumption due to enhanced dyne uptake and wicking,” stated Rory A. Wolf, Business Unit Manager, ITW Pillar Technologies.

Sustainable processes and clothing are preferred by consumers. Stating a survey, Melissa Bastos of Cary-based Cotton Incorporated said, “63% of consumers globally put time and effort into finding sustainable clothing.”