Industry Leaders Discuss Potential For Sustainable Path Forward During Innovative Textiles & Apparel Exhibition

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
November 23rd, 2020
4:12 AM

Advancement towards technology in sustainable production

This year’s Innovative Textiles & Apparel (ITA) textile machinery exhibition saw industry leaders discuss the path for a sustainable future. Though 2020 has stalled progress, leaders plan to forge ahead with seeking the right investors for advancement towards technology in sustainable production.  During the recent Innovative Textiles & Apparel (ITA) textile machinery exhibition held online from October 15-23, representatives from varying European companies within the industry discussed the realistic opportunities for innovating and implementing new spray application technologies for the dyeing and finishing sector. Such technologies, it was further clarified, can aid in achieving overall immense savings for manufacturers compared to the traditional water intense processes currently in place.  Imogo, one of the attendees, as well as the latest company to join the Swedish Textile Machinery Association (TMAS), is a key leader in this area. Having devised the Dye-Max system, the company came prepared to converse the topic with other key players.  To clarify, Imogo’s Dye-Max spray dyeing technology manages to cut the use of freshwater, wastewater, energy, and chemicals currently used in dyeing practices by as much as 90 percent compared to conventional jet dyeing systems. The power lies within its extremely low liquor ratio, 0.3-0.8 liters per kilo of fabric, as well as its need for fewer chemicals overall.  Yet, despite its progressive capabilities, such technologies as the Dye-Max system are still a long way away from being able to be securely implemented into industrial systems. Additionally, it was unanimously agreed during the ITA discussion that 2020 could not currently provide the proper environment necessary for further innovation and securing adventurous investors.  “The textile industry is quite conservative and is definitely in survival mode at the moment and it is not the time to be a visionary,” reiterated Stenflo. “Day to day business is about staying alive — that’s the reality for many of our customers.” Still, all the panelists in attendance agreed that sustainable production needs to remain the focus for the textile industry as it moves forward into the long term, and that spray technologies for dyeing and finishing processes need to remain at the forefront of that agenda.  “Any investment in something new is a risk of course, and we have to be able to explain and convince manufacturers that there’s a good return on investment, not only in respect of sustainability but in terms of making good business sense,” Stenflo said. “Here we could use the help of the brands of course, in putting pressure on their suppliers to be more sustainable. Governments also have a role to play, in providing incentives for producers to move in the sustainable direction. Sustainability alone will never cut it, there has to be a business case, or it won’t happen.” Such technologies face marketing difficulties as they forge forward. It is much easier to explain a brand’s use of sustainable new fibers compared to delving into the more intricate goings-on of textile production and the chemistry behind it all.  “Collaboration across the entire textile supply chain — from the brands right back to the new technology developers — is essential in moving the sustainability agenda forward. We are also looking into new business models in terms of how to reduce or lower the thresholds for investment and minimize the risk for the manufacturers who are looking to be the innovators,” he concluded. Also, a part of the ITA roundtable discussion was Simon Kew (Alchemie Technology, UK), Christian Schumacher (StepChange Innovations, Germany) Tobias Schurr (Weko, Germany), Rainer Tüxen (RotaSpray, Germany), and Felmke Zijilstra (DyeCoo, Netherlands). TMAS Secretary General Therese Premier-Andersson brought up at the discussion a major project recently conducted by the Swedish research organization Mistra Future Fashion. The study involved many brands and academic institute partners and its reports ultimately concluded that it is essentially very difficult to make assumptions about one fiber being “better” than another simply because it claims to be sustainable. Rather, the production of the fiber, on every level (even after its life cycle) matters. The study also found that 55 percent of the chemicals used in a garment comes from the dyeing process alone. “This is where a number of TMAS companies can make a difference.” she encouraged.  “An organic or recycled cotton t-shirt is not automatically more sustainable than a conventional cotton t-shirt, or even one made from synthetics” she continued  “The alternative fibers are a good start but you have to consider the entire life cycle of a garment, and that includes the smart technologies in textiles production.” The conference overall revealed that industry leaders are re-imagining currently implemented systems and are setting goals to forge towards a sustainable future we can be proud of along all levels of production.