Denim Textiles in the Technological Age
The denim industry is renowned as one of the most polluting industries in the world, from excessive water use to its reliance on a cocktail of chemical dyes and finishes. Thankfully, the sector is finally starting to incorporate sustainable production processes. With the right technology this positive production change will only continue to improve the sustainable credentials of the denim industry.
Large scale denim manufacturer, Saitex, is embracing technological advancements and eco-friendly processes with open arms. One example includes the company’s closed water system which significantly reduces water usage from the industry standard of 80 litres per jean to 1.5 litres. This huge reduction means that Saitex is able to save 430 million litres of water each year.
Meanwhile, global denim brand G-Star Raw recently introduced a denim fabric with the world’s first regenerative indigo dyeing concept. This means that the waste from the indigo dyeing process is designed to become a fertiliser for the agricultural industry, emphasising the brands drive towards circularity. G-Star has also launched a product range that is Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified®. That is a 100% recyclable product that utilises circular fabrics, buttons, yarns and labelling. Presently about 5% of G-Star fabrics are Cradle to Cradle certified at Gold level however the brand is aiming for an ambitious 20% goal by the year 2025.
Already known for their eco-friendly credentials Lenzing Group has launched another sustainable offering for the denim industry with the introduction of matte TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers. This new fiber type is specially designed to scatter light and permanently diminish sheen in denim applications, further enabling versatility of indigo-dyed denim fabrics. Made with a resource efficient closed-loop production process, matte TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers score above and beyond in providing a desirable deep, matte finish combined with against-the-skin comfort from raw materials that are of botanic origin and are fully biodegradable.
Also honing their dying technology, Italian denim mill Candiani Denim utilise ’N-Denim’ and ‘Indigo Juice’ processes that enable the mill to save 2,300 cubic meters of water, 9,450kg of chemicals and 44,000 cubic meters of energy (the equivalent of the average consumption of 31 families annually). The development of these new technologies not only results in highly concentrated shades but dramatically reduces the reliance on water and chemicals.
In the past, denim manufacturers have argued that the natural dyes on offer lacked the vibrancy of their synthetic counterparts, however on-going investment and development has given way to high quality natural dyes that are biodegradable without the need for the application of an oxidant or reductant agent.
When it comes to finishing, revolutionary and innovative technology is leading the way to ensure sustainable garment production is easy and accessible. Smart foam treatments are performed at room temperature, therefore reducing the minimum energy required and water use by 80%. With smart foam the chemical carrier is not water, but a special foam created with a combination of new technologies. Developed between three leading companies across the garment finishing industry – Garmon, Itaclab and Mactec, smart foam can be used to perform treatments fully compliant with greenofchange requirements. The smart foam garment finishing system aims to support suppliers to achieve their sustainability goals and is accessible for any industrial laundry.
An overview of the denim market reveals it is projected to be worth USD 30.14 Billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 4.74% during the forecast period (2021 – 2028). With this phenomenal growth for the sector in mind, alongside the on-going environmental concerns, the EIM (Environmental Impact Measurement) provides a powerful platform to monitor the environmental impact of garment finishing processes in an efficient and economically viable way. This self-accreditation tool aims to improve environmental performance of jeans finishing at the manufacturing stage and allows laundries and garment finishers, the tools to identify where they can incorporate more sustainable processes.
EIM was developed by Jeanologia, a technology manufacturer that offers sustainable textile solutions and new operating initiatives not only for their clients but the entire denim sector. It’s this collaborative ethos that can really forge change within the denim market, drawing a line under the sector’s negative manufacturing associations and leading denim into a sustainable, technological age.