MDT - Sustainable Textiles

Academic leader: Prof. dr. eng. Antonela Curteza, “Gheorghe Asachi” Technical University of Iasi (Romania), e-mail: ACurteza@gmail.com
Academic co-leader: Dr. Amaya Igartua Aranzabal, Fundacion TEKNIKER (Spain), e-mail: amaya.igartua@tekniker.es
Industrial leader: Mihai Lupu, Future in Textiles Association (Romania), e-mail: mihailupu75@yahoo.com

Environmental issues are playing an increasingly important role in the textile and fashion industry, both from the point of view of government regulation and consumer expectations. Sustainable textiles and technologies need to find and propose new ways of achieving more sustainable materials and technologies as well as improving recycling in the industry. In this general context, sustainable textiles should be environmentally friendly and should respect social and environmental quality by pollution prevention.
Sustainability is a systemic concept, relating to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society, its members and its economies are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighbourhood to the entire planet.

Sustainable textiles mean that all materials and process, inputs and outputs, are safe both for health and environment, in all the phases of the product life cycle. All energy, material and process inputs come from renewable or recycled sources. It also means that materials are capable of returning safely to either natural systems or industrial systems, and all stages in the product life cycle actively support the reuse or recycling of these materials at the highest possible level of quality. All product life cycle stages should enhance the social well being.
Sustainability in textiles refers to the use of resources without exhausting them.
Many companies are taking the initiative to invest in technologies of sustainability. Many firms are realizing that it is important to their growth and their own sustainability to be green. There are many sustainable contributions to be made in the textile industry before the clothes even reach the consumer. Competitive solutions could be found, from pre-treatments to the finishing touches, which help manufacturers to meet the challenges of producing high-quality fabrics in a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly manner.
There are lots of initiatives under way to produce overall sustainable textile products and the efforts are taken by responsible important players in the market and along the textile value chain, including textile machinery manufacturers too. There are developed cleaner and sustainable manufacturing processes in order to overcome the image of a so called “dirty” textile industry, polluting water and environment during the life cycle of a product and probably also presenting a threat to the health of the end users (consumers). Some facts have to change and the efforts undertaken up to now are still insufficient to change the image of this industry.

Several barriers can inhibit the adoption of this behaviour and in order to overcome these barriers some actions have to be taken, such as [7]:

  • Consumer education.
  • Increased emphasis on durability that would support the move towards reduced material flow.
  • New business models development.
  • Technology development that may lead to new means to freshen clothes without washing, efficient sorting of used clothing, new fibre recycling technology and new low temperature detergents.
  • The improvement of the infrastructure of clothing and textile collection.

According to a literature review, some main topics that were, and still could be developed in the future are:

  • Biodegradable and sustainable fibres;
  • Sustainability through the supply chain;
  • Achieving sustainable textiles through a designer’s perspective;
  • Greener/sustainable textile materials;
  • Greener/sustainable dyeing and finishing processes;
  • Enzyme biotechnology for sustainable textiles;
  • Environmentally friendly plasma technologies for textiles;
  • Nanotechnology in sustainable textiles;
  • Recycling in textiles;
  • Consumer perceptions (and education) of recycled textile products;
  • Sustainable design in textile and fashion.
  • Assessing the environmental impact of textiles and the clothing supply chain;
  • Sustainable production/technologies.

The most promising areas identified are:

  • The cotton alternative and a new world of fibre innovation;
  • Investigating the possible applications of novel plant-based bioactive agents for producing more appealing and highly functional value-added textile.
  • Ecological chemicals, dyes, finishing, printing;
  • Re-thinking recycling: cascade for recycling - successive loops - as a general context with different aspects to be approached.


References:

  1. Just-Style's report 'Sustainable Textiles for Apparel: Fact, Fiction and Future Prospects', Published in January 2014, Available from http://www.just-style.com/market-research/sustainable-textiles-for-appar..., Accessed: 2014.02.10;
  2. Silas, J., Hansen, J., Guenther, R., Lent, T.: The future of fabrics: Healthy and sustainable, http://www.healthy building.net/healthcare/FutureOfFabric.pdf, Available from http://www.healthcaredesignmagazine.com/article/future-fabrics-healthy-a..., Accessed: 2014.02.10.  
  3. http://www.bsr.org/reports/BSR_NICE_Consumer_Discussion_Paper.pdf;
  4. NICE Consumer Report available at: http://www.nordicfashionassociation.com/41193/The%20NICE%20Consumer%20re...
  5. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/gpp/pdf/toolkit/textiles_GPP_product_she...
  6. http://susproc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/textiles/
  7. http://www.academia.edu/Documents/in/Sustainable_Fashion_Textiles_Research