Published 2 years ago.
About a 4 minute read.
Image: Teona Swift/Pexels
With textile manufacturing responsible for 20% of global water pollution, Waste2Fresh's closed-loop water-recycling system aim to revolutionize the industry’s exploitative methods for dyeing and manufacturing our clothes.
The toxicity and persistence of industrial dyes have been harming our waterways
for years. Made to last on our clothes, they last in our environment — which
means devastating consequences for our environment; three rivers in
Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka have been declared “biologically
thanks to these dyes.
For years, the textile industry has been exploiting and damaging our finite
supply of fresh water; the World
has identified 72 toxic chemicals in our waterways as a result from textile
dyeing alone. Although climate change and water pollution are global problems,
the water-polluting impacts of the textile industry are mainly localised to the
developing countries that produce the majority of our clothes — with garment
workers and local communities most vulnerable to the health and environmental
Developing countries account for almost all textiles that are made for
fast-fashion processes. And if the water used for processing, washing, diluting,
heating, cooling and transporting during manufacturing is not treated properly —
it goes on to pollute our oceans and rivers.
“In such resource-intensive industries, we need breakthrough innovations to
recycle water and create closed loops in industrial processes,” Phill Jones, a
project manager at the UK’s Centre for Process Innovation
(CPI) — an independent innovation centre, part of the consortium developing the Waste2Fresh breakthrough technology, which could bring an end to the textile industry’s harsh,
water-polluting methods — told Sustainable Brands™.
The Waste2Fresh project, funded by the
EUH2020, aims to address
the textile industry's contribution to global water pollution.
As Jones explains it: “The Waste2Fresh system will integrate novel
catalytic-degradation approaches with highly selective separation and extraction
techniques to deliver a closed-loop system that assures near-zero discharge;
reduces current use of freshwater resources; and considerably increases the
recovery of water, energy and other resources — for example, organics, salts and
Standards for industrial water treatment do exist — for example, the Zero
Discharge of Hazardous
(ZDHC) standards — however, textile manufacturers often find it difficult to
cost-effectively meet them. Therefore, innovations such as Waste2fresh could
prove essential for scaling accessible, sustainable processes for textile
Waste2Fresh offers a sustainable industrial water-recycling system; as Jones
explained: “This closed-loop discharge system allows for factories to reuse the
water numerous times, ideally indefinitely. This essentially means that
factories no longer need to take in further water from precious local freshwater
supplies, nor do they need to pollute those same freshwater supplies.”*
The textile industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — 4 percent of
— annually; closed-loop systems are essential to help curtail this constant
uptake of our limited supply.
As we exceed critical planetary
earlier and earlier each
immediate action needs to be taken on a global scale, with businesses being held
to account for both their products and
“A business’s success and its sustainability will become more intertwined as we
progress into the future,” Jones says. “Therefore, textile business owners
cannot just focus on the textiles that they fabricate, but also their processes
Long term, the Waste2Fresh consortium is aiming to distribute the Waste2Fresh system across a large
number of textile manufacturers, as well as engaging other water-intensive
industries on the benefits of the technology — which itself was developed with
sustainability in mind: Plant materials such as fique are used in the treatment
process; and the equipment itself can be powered by a solar array, with
used to run equipment at night, and rainwater catchment capability to help
compensate for water lost to evaporation.
To achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6,
water sanitation and pollution issues need to be addressed globally —
particularly in the developing world. With this in mind, Jones said the main
goals of the Waste2Fresh project are:
A reduction in water stress for the region using the technology.
An improvement in water quality due to minimization of hazardous chemicals
and materials entering the waterways.
Expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing
countries in water and sanitation-related activities and programmes,
including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater
treatment, recycling and reuse technologies.
“We believe these types of projects are key to SDG6 — the problems associated
with water and sanitation are varied and complex in their causes, scope and
solution; and thus, so are the solutions,” Jones said. “There is no one magic
bullet. We feel the projects we are working on will do their bit in helping move
towards safer, less polluted water.”
Published Aug 3, 2021 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 1pm BST / 2pm CEST
Scarlett Buckley is a London-based freelance sustainability writer with an MSc in Creative Arts & Mental Health.