Textile Production and the Environment


TextileProduction and the Environment

TextileProduction and Pollution

Thetextile processing industry is characterized by the production oflarge volumes of pollutants as well as byproducts that find their wayto the environment. Textile processing produces not only severalharmful chemicals, but also large volumes of water from several ofits units in the process. In addition, the textile industry has asignificant level of use of dyes and combination of colors. Theinvolvement of dyes in the production of textile forms the backboneof pollution that the entire manufacturing industry contributesthrough dyeing. This illustrates that the textile industry is a largecontributor to the environmental degradation. This paper will explorethe processes involved in textile manufacturing, the pollutantsemitted and the legal regulations of the law, related toenvironmental controls. Moreover, this paper will discuss the extentof the environmental concerns related to the problems posed bytextile production.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Operations and Processes Involved

Thetextile manufacturing process is a complex operation, butconventionally involves four main procedures that occur in stages.The first stage involves preparing cotton for spinning by cleaningand removing trash and seeds that may have remained duringharvesting. The preparation stage makes the cotton a usable rawmaterial for the textile processing. This is because cotton isharvested and needs trash and seeds to be removed from the wool(Leon, 2011). The second stage is the spinning stage that involvesturning of cotton textile fibers into yarns (Slater, 2003). It is theprocess of twisting strands of fiber together to yarns that will beused in the subsequent states. The end product of spinning is theyarn, which is produced through several types of spinning.

Thenext stage is weaving. This is the process through which the threadsof textile are woven. The process uses several machines of differenttypes depending on the type of fabric or cloth that is intended to bethe end product. According to Leon (2011), there are different typesof weaving that include the plain weaving, satin weaving and thetowel weaving

Thethird stage is dying or the printing stage. At this level, theprocess of dying involves the use of colors and dyes that are appliedto the woven cloth. The printing process also involves the use of thecolors and dyes of different types depending on the features of thecloth needed.

Thefinal stage is a garment manufacturing process. Leon (2011) arguesthat this is the main process where the final textile products aremade in terms of finished cloths and wears. This stage involveddesigning, sketching, development of the cloth patterns and making ofsamples. After the samples, the garments are graded, spread and thencut to size. Then the cloths are sewed and assembled, ready forinspection. They are then finished in the final inspection andpackaged for dispatch.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp KeyPollutants and Emissions


Oneof the main pollutants that the textile industry produces is thepollutant air emissions. These emissions come from different stagesand processes that are involved in the production of the textileoutput. Some of these gases include Nitrogen oxide and Sulfur Oxide.According to Slater (2003), the sources of these gases from thetextile operations come from point sources like boilers, storagetanks and ovens. For instance, from the boilers, textile millsnormally generate sulfur Oxides and also significant percentages ofnitrogen oxides. They may also be emitted by diffusive sources suchas the solvent-based industrial processes, waste water points andgas-spills and warehouses.

Gaseousemissions pollute the air by affecting the fresh air environment andaffect human, animal and plant life. Exposure to Nitrogen Oxidecauses adverse respiratory problems such as airway inflammation,which leads to respiratory difficulties. Exposure to Sulfur Oxideleads to skin corrosion, blindness and is suspected to cause cancer.

Inaddition, hydrocarbons are emitted during the processes of dying andfabric preparation. The hydrocarbons are also produced by theprocesses of printing, printing and during the treatment of thegarments (Slater, 2003). These processes emit some of the gasesthrough the wetting and drying activities that involve change ofchemicals and water from liquid to gaseous forms. Other emissionsinclude softeners, acids and acidic gases and formaldehyde (Leon,2011). Moreover, the residues of chemicals used during the clothpreparation and dying are also emitted as gases during the process ofdrying of the garments.

PollutantWaste Water

Thetextile industry produces large amount of water from the entireprocess of garment and cloth preparation. The waste water is highlycontaminated by the unused dyes that are washed from the garmentsduring the printing and the dyeing processes. On average, anestimated one kilogram of textile requires around 200 liters of waterto prepare for the beginning to the end of the process. Therefore,waste water is the biggest pollutant that the textile industryproduces. In addition, waste water contains chemicals used in thegarment preparation processes such as softening. The effect of thepollutants produced in textile industries has made it difficult forcountries like the in the U.S. The same impact has had negativehealth problems in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam, wherecontrol measures are not strong.

Wastewater leads to pollution of all the aspects of the environment bothwater, air and land pollution. According to Leon (2011), theuntreated dyes and chemicals cause massive water pollution when thiswaste water finds its way into the environmental water masses such asrivers and oceans. The aquatic pollutants in the water include thesalts, toxic anions, the acidity of the water and the dyes in thewaste water. In addition, waste water pollutes the soils when it isdisposed on bare land without prior treatment. When such waterevaporates or is warmed, it leads to air pollution.


Inthe textile industry, production of dyes has significant impact onthe environment, especially through their disposal as wastes. Thedyes from the production of textile are mostly in the form of wastewater. When an adverse pollution problem exists, most of the dyesfrom the textile dyeing operations ultimately leach their way, or aredeposited in streams and such which ultimately end up in our riversand oceans causing environmental concerns such as killing fish andaquatic animals. The effects of the dyes on the environment,especially on aquatic life and plants present a threat to the naturalecosystem. The production of textile dyes in textile industriesaffects the environment, poisons food and depletes aquatic life. Thismeans that continued production of dyes during textile making willlead to increased pollution of the environment.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp GovernmentRegulations and Control

Toensure continued production of textiles, authorities in the globalarena and national or state levels regularly introduce measures toregulate the resulting pollution. This is because the production oftextiles is important for the modern life. Therefore, governmentregulation and control is necessary to ensure sustainable productionof textiles. According to Environmental Protection Agency (2002), oneof the regulations of the federal government in the United States isa requirement for the textile manufacturers to treat their waterbefore elimination to the environment.

Thisregulation is found in the Clean Water Act of 1972 that requiresmanufacturers to maintain clean water concerns for the public. Underthis law, manufactures of textile products are regulated in terms ofproduction of waste water that contains solvents such as MethylEthyl Ketone Peroxide and toluene(EPA, 2002). MethylEthyl KetonePeroxide causes severe skin irritation and may lead to blindness ifin contact with the eyes. Exposure to toluene causes color visionloss and hearing impairment. The Clean Water Act’s regulations aremeant to reduce the effect on the environment, especially on watermasses and the general ecosystem. The federal government requires thefood and textile industries to treat the waste water because its useis inevitable.

Secondly,most governments require the textile industries to treat wastes thatare not degradable before disposing them. According to the EPA(2002), the ResourceConservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), requires that all the wastesthat are classified as hazardous should be sent from the site ofproduction for treatment, storage or disposal. The RCRA also requiresthat manufacturers establish waste accumulation units in theirfactories where waste products should be treated. If the manufacturesprepare any waste oil during the production of textiles, the RCRArequires that different standards of waste management be used tomanage the waste.

Thefederal government limits the amount of hazardous materials or wastesthat are produced by manufactures. In addition, they requireelimination of color and chemical salts from the waste water beforeelimination from the industries. Through the RCRAthe federal government classifies materials that are considered aswastes and issue regulations that guide their disposal (EPA, 2002).For instance, according to EPA (2002), manufacturers who are LargeQuantity Generators (LQGs) should not produce more than 1,000kilograms or 2,200 lbs of hazardous waste per month. The SmallQuantity Generators (SQGs) have the limit at 100 kilograms (EPA,2002).

Finally,the governments require the textile manufacturers to adopt recyclingas a method of managing textile wastes and by-products. In additionto the requirements of the federal government, the state governmentsare also active in effecting this regulation. For example, the NewYork City has an implemented law that requires all companies,including textile manufacturers to recycle waste products if afactory produces over 10% of its waste as industrial waste (Ganiaris&amp Okun, 2001). In addition, the RCRArequires that textile manufacturers in the United States train theirpersonnel on the environmental impact of the production andregulatory measures (EPA, 2002).

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Environmental Control Methods

Oneof the environmental control methods with a global outlook is theadoption of the Eco-Labels. This involves giving labels that certifythat the producer of the garment has adhered to all requiredenvironmental regulations. The textile industry label is the OKO-Tex100, which requires the use of optimum production inputs that therisk environment, such as the dyes, heavy metals and formaldehyde(Slater, 2003). According to Slater (2003), the eco-labels aim atreducing the production of pollutants like heavy metals andformaldehyde. The eco-labels for the textile industry are one of thewidely used and recognized labels in the world with the United Statesand European Union being the pioneers. The eco-labels that aresignificant in the textile industry are health labels, organic Ecolabels, environmental Eco labels and social labels.

Recyclingis one of the environmental control methods that aim at regulatingand controlling the volumes of pollutants produced by the textileindustry. Through this method, recycling takes two forms of reducingthe level of pollution. First is recycling of the waste products thatare produced in the process of producing textiles at all the fourstages (Leon, 2011). For instance, it would be better to recyclewater and dye emitted in the textile production process, and not justdisposing them in the environment.

Thesecond form is that of recycling the end product, textile products.This involves re-using textile for making other products orre-processing into new clothing products. Instead of throwing the oldtextile away, it is advisable to re-use as much product as possibleto increase profit streams and to reduce the negative environmentalimpact. In addition, instead of burning the old textile products andemitting gases that pollute the environment, it is advisable torecycle them. However, the main challenge of recycling is thecreation of awareness on the importance of the practice to reduce thenegative environmental impact.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Commenton the Environmental concern

Sincethe production of textiles lead to the generation of pollutants likechemicals and dyes, the industry needs regulation for it to besustainable. While textile production is still a sustainableindustrial process now, its future sustainability depends on themeasures taken now and the regulation effected. Recycling is the mostappropriate solution to the textile pollutant problem, especially asthe current world is increasingly requiring a rise in the demand fortextile products. This demand leads to increased, exceedenvironmental concerns. Moreover, the production of wastes can beminimized if manufacturers take responsibility of their productionresults and adhere to the regulations of state or federalauthorities.

&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp Conclusion

Textileindustry is an important part of the modern world that is graduallygrowing in population, thus increasing the demand for textileproducts. This means that textile production will continue therebyincreasing the demand, and consequent pollution. The production oftextiles produces dyes, chemicals, waste water and pollutant gasesthrough the textile industrial processes of spinning, weaving, dyeingand printing and garment preparation. These pollutants affect theenvironment negatively through air, land and water pollution.However, the federal and state governments have implementedregulations and controls that aim at reducing the environmentaleffects of textile production that will make the textile production asustainable industry in the future.


  1. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, 2002. RCRA: Textile Manufacturing. Retrieved

From,&lthttp://www.epa.gov/osw/inforesources/pubs/infocus/k02028.pdf&gtJuly 21, 2014

  1. Ganiaris, G. &amp Okun, J. (2001) To riches from rags: profiting from waste reduction: a best

practicesguide for textile and apparel manufacturers. U.S.EPA Region 2. Retrieved from,&lthttp://www.epa.gov/region02/p2/textile.pdf&gtJuly 3, 2014

  1. Kuhad, R. C. &amp Singh, A. (2013). Biotechnology for Environmental Management and Resource

Recovery.NewYork: SpringerScience &amp Business Media

  1. Leon, W. J. (2011). The Textile Industry: History and Health and Safety. Retrieved From,

&lthttp://www.ilo.org/oshenc/part-xiv/textile-goods-industry/item/877-the-textile-industry-history-and-health-and-safety&gtJuly 21, 2014

  1. Slater, K. (2003). Environmental Impact of Textiles: Production, Processes and Protection.

Cambridge:Woodhead Publishing