The textile industry must innovate to prevent water scarcity

Meryl Fabrics® Water

The Technical & Innovations Director at the award-winning Meryl Fabrics®, Peter Broom believes that the textile industry must take action to improve its sustainability credentials and help to prevent water scarcity in the future.

In the second of his viewpoints Peter Broom, technical and innovations director of the award-winning Meryl Fabrics, looks at the use of water and how it must change to protect this valuable natural resource and improve the sector’s eco and sustainability credentials. 

The textile industry uses an estimated 93 billion litres of water a year or four percent of all available fresh water and on current trends, Common Objectives estimates that this will double by 2030.  

This puts pressure on scarce resources particularly when the Soil Association says that, depending on where it is grown, a kilogramme of cotton can take up to 20,000 litres of water to produce.

If we are going to take a responsible stance, we have to tackle this and protect this valuable resource and prevent water scarcity, especially because many places where cotton is grown are facing water shortages due to climate change.

In my previous viewpoint, I highlighted that for example using a waterless process in dyeing can work towards solving pollution and water usage problems. We also need to actively change other production processes which cause environmental harm.

An example is microfibres which are a by-product of the traditional fabric manufacturing process and shed during wear and washing.

Eurofins Scientific found that one wash of a kilo of cotton is likely to shed 200mg of fibre. Most of these non-biodegradable fibres end up in water courses causing problems to marine life and acting as concentrates for other contaminates such as chemicals and metals.

Meryl Fabrics® Material Comparison Infographic

At Meryl, we have worked to eliminate the problem of microfibres. Our manufacturing process uses a hydrogen bonding system to create strong molecular chains to ‘seal’ the fibres to the filaments ensuring no release of microfibres into the air, rivers or oceans during wear or washing.

The chemicals used in finishing to improve the appearance, texture or performance are among the greatest contributors to water pollution. We have eliminated the need for topical treatments to the fabric or final item to provide a high-quality touch and feel without the use of silicones or softeners.

Furthermore, during manufacture, the fabric is treated with antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal treatment during spinning which remains active throughout the fabric’s life.  

The fabric produced has a cotton-like feel and has durability meaning items last three to five times longer than comparable fabrics so further enhancing water saving.

When it takes up to 10,000 litres to make a single cotton bed sheet or pair of jeans to add to the water used in growing the cotton, it is irresponsible not to do something to reduce water usage and help to prevent water scarcity in the future. This has been one of the driving factors at Meryl. We have created a manufacturing process that saves 3,0000 litres for every 600m of fabric compared with traditional cotton fibre production.

As well as reducing water use in fabric production, further savings come at the end of a garment’s lifecycle as Meryl fabrics are recyclable. We return the waste to its original base polymer, producing new yarn with a straightforward process and use it in new manufacturing.

It saves water growing new cotton and as we have seen the process itself requires little water and is better than sending old garments to landfill and taking up to 200 years to decompose or being burnt to add further to the industry’s impact on the environment.

There are solutions to tackle our industry’s environmental impact. So, let’s stop talking about the need for action and get on with it. 

We can come together and take the game-changing step to protect the planet’s resources and look towards sustainability for all.

PCIAW Uniform Networks Buyer, Trusted member