The Six Stages of Organic Cotton Production
There are six stages in the process of organic cotton garment manufacture. These include the following: Growing cotton, ginning, cotton spinning, dyeing the cotton fabric, construction of the garment and the final stage of which is the distribution of the garment from the warehouse to the storefront.
Growing organic cotton begins in the green fields within tropical climates. Organic cotton is dominantly grown in 20 counties with Turkey being the primary cotton producer. Other countries include India, Tanzania, China, Peru, Senegal and more.
The first stage of the process is planting the cotton seed. The seed is then fed by rain and once the cotton plant has grown cotton farmers will then pick the cotton by hand. During the production and growth of organic cotton, no pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used. Farmers instead use a rich compost and remove the pests be hand.
The cotton ginning process is a generic term used to imply the complete process in effectively turning cotton bolls into fibres.
Once the cotton bolls are picked, they are then delivered directly to the ginning factory by truck. This is where the cotton is fed into the ginning machine that separates the cotton fibres from the seedpods. This is carried out in order to efficiently remove any dirt, stems, leaves and linters. In the completion of the cleaning and separating stage of the process, the seeds are then later refined to create cottonseed oil, the linters are used in the manufacturing of paper and plastics and the cotton is now referred to as lint cotton as it has been separated from the seed.
The cotton spinning process is a term that is used to describe the process in which fibres pass through the carding machine that separates the fibres to become yarn and then eventually be ready to be weaved or knitted.
During this process, the cotton is thoroughly cleaned through a rigorous cleaning process. The fibres are then combed by a range of machinery and are finally spun to form soft textured yarn. Once the cotton has been transformed into a knitted cotton fabric it is then put on a truck to be taken to the dyeing factories.
Dyeing cotton fabric
One of the biggest concerns relating to the manufacture of organic garments is the issue of water waste and toxic chemicals used in the dyeing process.
The conventional dyeing process is a highly toxic process that requires a lot of water. Throughout the dyeing stage, a lot of water waste gets generated and instantly becomes infected with toxic heavy metals and pollutants. The toxic chemicals used in the dyes have a harmful effect on not just the environment but also to the farmers as well as the people living within the surrounding area. This also has a negative impact on consumers as 80% of the toxic chemicals used in these dyes still remain in our clothes long after the production process.
However, in organic certified factories only natural dyes are used. This means that the colours used in the dyes come from elements in nature. Natural dyes require land to grow with ingredients such as indigo, onion shells and turmeric being the most popular of options. The many reasons as to why natural dyes are used less compared to popular synthetic dyes are because natural dyes lack the vibrancy of synthetic dyes. Once the cotton has been dyed it is then sent to the garment factory.
Garment construction and distribution
Once the cotton has been prepped and dyed it is then ready for the final stage, the construction of the garment itself. The garment is created in a series of operations, with employees working long hours to produce the garment. At this stage, the design teams are heavily involved and discuss sizes, cuts, and colors with the workers. The workers then cut the finished cotton cloth to the required designs and piece everything together through stitching on the industrial sewing machines.
Once the garment is completed they are collected and are then sent for further cleaning and pressing. The garments are then packaged and are stored to be distributed to the warehouse. Once at the warehouse the garments are then sent out to stores worldwide for customers to purchase.
In fields where conventional cotton is grown the fields are sprayed with chemicals that are considered to be the most toxic in the world. This has an extremely harmful impact on the farmers and their families as it exposes them to an unfathomable amount of toxic chemicals every day. When producing cotton organically no hazardous chemicals are used in the process and farmers also save money by not having to purchase large amounts of pesticides. This is also beneficial for consumers as toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton garment manufacture stay within the garment long after leaving the factory. Therefore organic cotton is a better alternative as it is not only a lot softer than generic cotton but it is also far less harmful to our skin.
By Sabrina Shafi