The Textile Industry - Full Steam ahead

Textile & Us
Popular Read

In the vast landscape of the textile industry, 'sustainability' is often lost amidst near epic challenges. We face an urgent reality as we grapple with this issue today, but there is potential for change. Future technologies hint at a promising path, giving us hope for a sustainable transformation.

Lotus Nano: Leading independent nanotech and nanocoating consulting in India.

What's Covered

The Hidden Tapestry of the Textile World Human Traits and Their Societal Influences How did we get to where we are today? Where the Textile Industry stands today It’s not just Fast-Fashion PFAS Forever Chems In Our Cloths But There Is Hope What Nanotech can do Advantages of Using Nanocoatings in Textile Manufacturing Today Example Use Cases of Nano Textiles / Fabrics Today

Stranger than Fiction? The Hidden Tapestry of the Textile World

We've all been there - enticed by the 'Two for the Price of One' deal on beautiful new curtains, drawn in by the end-of-season 90% off clearance sales on stylish hotel linens, or tempted by the $1 floor mats for a car that needed just that extra touch. These consumer landscapes are steeped in the seemingly harmless churn of retail excitement. But behind this comforting familiarity lurks a plot far more complex and daunting than one might imagine.

Think about it. When we peek behind those plush drapes of home decor sales, delve into the buzz of the hospitality sector's textile refresh cycle, or gear into the automotive textile rotations – we find ourselves on a rollercoaster of overconsumption, fuelled by the irresistible urge for the 'new' and the 'now.' This excessive gusto resonates at a tune of $500 billion in waste annually – a tune our planet is bearing the brunt of!

Yet, the textile industry is far more than just our shopping impulses. Its threads run deep, threading the needle through the fabric of human progress - it's as essential as the medical gowns in our healthcare industry, as dynamic as the uniforms of our sport and fitness world. But this tapestry of human endeavour weaves together an increasingly uncomfortable picture. A picture of environmental strife paid in the currency of carbon, water, biodiversity - the very capital of our planet.

But here's where the plot takes a twist.

This escalating narrative can be rewoven, retold. It starts with the spark of conscious choice in a shopping aisle, followed by an industry-wide gear shift towards sustainable practices and innovative possibilities. Every 'why not?' every $1 t-shirt, every discounted curtain – each choice holds the power to steer this story differently.

Join us as we unravel the intricate stitches of the textile industry, from its somber shadows of environmental impacts to the bright shimmers of hopeful initiatives and looming technologies like nanotechnology. It’s time to imbibe a new narrative, one where the textile world finds redemption for itself, and for our one and only real home – the Earth.
Full Steam ahead?
The Textile Industry - Full Steam ahead?

The Intersection of Human Traits and Their Societal Influences

Human behaviour is a fascinating blend of complex traits and tendencies. These intrinsic characteristics significantly influence not only our personal lives but also the societal structures we collectively construct. Their impact touches upon economic systems, social norms, legal structures, and more. Here, we detail each trait and its corresponding effects on society:

  1. Survival/Self-interest: This primal instinct, which ensures our survival, is also a catalyst for innovative pursuits and resource accumulation. However, when self-interest outweighs common good, it can breed conflict, inequality, and social strife, underscoring the importance of empathy and collective responsibility in social structures.
  2. Greed/Wealth Acquisition: While greed stimulates wealth creation and competitive growth in capitalist economies, unchecked aspirations can lead to socio-economic disparities, unethical practices, and political power struggles. This duality illustrates the importance of checks and balances in the economic and political domains.
  3. Curiosity/Exploration: The keystones of scientific progress and technological innovation, curiosity, and exploration push the boundaries of human knowledge. Yet, unrestrained curiosity can tilt towards unethical experiments or privacy infringements, emphasising the need for firm ethical guidelines in research and innovation sectors.
  4. Social Connection/Relationships: The bedrock of community development, these traits guide the formation of social structures, from close-knit families to global digital networks. Excessive need for social approval may stifle individual expression and foster conformity, prompting us to balance community bonds with individual freedoms.
  5. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)/Insecurity: Dominant forces in our modern digital era, these experiences influence consumer behaviour and drive social media trends, often amplifying consumerism and fostering a potentially unhealthy comparison culture. Recognising and mitigating these traits' potential harms underlines the importance of emotional resilience in our technology-rich world.
  6. Power/Influence: These traits shape sociopolitical dynamics and hierarchies, fostering leadership, and order, but unchecked they can breed autocracy and manipulation. The quest for a fair and balanced power system reaffirms the values of democracy and civic participation.
  7. Fear/Pain Avoidance: Deep-seated survival instincts, fear, and pain avoidance help form societal norms and legal systems designed to protect and ensure the wellbeing of individuals. Conversely, overemphasis on fear can limit risk-taking and stifle innovation, drawing attention to the role of courage and risk management in personal and societal growth.
  8. Need for Validation: This widespread longing impacts societal norms, career choices, and personal relationships. However, when external validation transcends internal self-worth, it can undermine authenticity and personal contentment, highlighting the significance of self-esteem and internal validation in modern society.

How did we get to where we are today?

At the very root of the textile industry's issues are systemic problems related to our economic and social systems. These include:

  1. Capitalism: The textile industry's growth and expansion have been driven by the capitalist system, which prioritises profit over sustainability and social responsibility. Companies are encouraged to maximise their profits, often at the expense of the environment and workers.
  2. Consumerism: The culture of consumption, fuelled by advertising and social media, has created a demand for fast fashion and disposable clothing. Consumers are encouraged to purchase new clothing frequently, leading to a cycle of overproduction and waste.
  3. Economic Inequality: The globalisation of the textile industry has led to the exploitation of workers in developing countries, where labor costs are low. This exploitation perpetuates economic inequality, where a few benefit from the profits while many suffer from poor working conditions and low wages.
  4. Lack of Transparency: The textile industry lacks transparency, making it difficult for consumers to know the environmental and social impact of their purchases. This lack of transparency allows companies to prioritise profit over sustainability and social responsibility.
  5. Synthetic Materials: The production of synthetic materials (primarily petrochemicals), such as polyester and nylon, has a significant impact on the environment. These materials are derived from non-renewable resources and require large amounts of energy to produce. Additionally, the microfibres shed by synthetic clothing during washing contribute to the pollution of waterways and the ocean.
How did we get to where we are today?
How did we get to where we are today?

The capitalist system, with its emphasis on self-interest and the accumulation of wealth, has, no doubt, contributed to the negative impacts of the textile industry. The pursuit of profit has led companies to prioritise cost-cutting measures and fast fashion production over ethical and sustainable practices. This has resulted in exploitative labor conditions, environmental degradation, and the disposal of massive amounts of textile waste.

The desire for cheap clothing and the need for constant novelty has created a culture of overconsumption and a throwaway mentality, where clothing is viewed as disposable and easily replaceable. This has led to the rise of fast fashion, a business model built on producing clothing quickly and cheaply, with little regard for the workers, the environment, or the longevity of the product.

The negative effects of the textile industry, including pollution and labor exploitation, have a disproportionate impact on marginalised communities, including women, people of colour, and those living in developing countries. These communities are often the ones most affected by the environmental and social impacts of the industry, with little access to resources or the ability to demand change.

The development of the textile industry is closely linked to the history of colonisation and imperialism, with certain powers exploiting the resources and labour of colonised countries to fuel their own industrial growth. This legacy of exploitation arguably continues today, as companies continue to source materials and labour from countries with looser labour and environmental regulations than their own.

In order to address the negative impacts of the textile industry, there needs to be a shift towards more sustainable and ethical practices, such as investing in renewable energy, reducing waste and pollution, and promoting fair labor practices. Additionally, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we think about clothing and consumption, moving away from the fast fashion model and towards a more conscious and responsible approach to fashion.

Where the Textile Industry stands today

Read Greenpeace's findings in 2023: 10 years after Rana Plaza in Bangladesh: Fashion Labels conceal a broken system

The textile industry is no doubt a vital part of the global economy, employing millions of people and providing clothing and other textiles for consumers around the world. However, the industry is also facing significant challenges related to sustainability, labour rights, and environmental impact. In recent years, there has been growing awareness of these issues, and many companies are working to improve their practices and reduce their impact on people and the planet. In this context, understanding the current state of the textile industry is essential for anyone who cares about sustainability and ethical consumerism. Here some less pleasing stats not suitable for bedtime reading:

  1. Carbon Emissions: The textile industry is responsible for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than the aviation and shipping industries combined. (Source: United Nations Climate Change, 2021)
  2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the production of textiles contributes to 5-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Water Usage: The production of cotton, the most widely used natural fibre, requires significant amounts of water - up to 20,000 litres per kilogram. This has resulted in the depletion of major water resources in countries like Uzbekistan. (Source: World Wildlife Fund, 2021)
  4. Synthetic Fibres: Synthetic fibres such as polyester, derived from non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. (Source: United Nations, 2019)
  5. Water Consumption: The textile industry is the second-largest consumer of water, after agriculture, being responsible for more than 20% of global wastewater. (Source: World Bank, 2019)
  6. Microplastics: Synthetic fibre production releases microplastics into the environment, which can take hundreds of years to decompose, polluting the air, water, and soil. (Source: World Economic Forum, 2021)
  7. Water Pollution: The textile industry significantly contributes to global water pollution, with chemicals used in textile dyeing and finishing entering water bodies, adversely affecting aquatic ecosystems and impacting human health. (Source: United Nations, 2019)
  8. Deforestation: The industry is linked to deforestation and habitat destruction, as forests are removed to establish cotton plantations and for other textile materials. (Source: Rainforest Action Network, 2021)
  9. Transport Emissions: The industry is associated with substantial greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the transportation of materials and finished goods globally. (Source: World Resources Institute, 2021)
  10. Soil Degradation: The industry contributes to soil degradation and erosion due to intensive cultivation and the use of agrochemicals, leading to reduced soil fertility. (Source: United Nations, 2021)
  11. Resource Depletion: The textile industry contributes to the depletion of natural resources such as land, water, and energy, leading to ecological imbalances and loss of biodiversity. (Source: United Nations, 2019)
  12. Labor Exploitation: The industry has been associated with high levels of labor exploitation and human rights violations, particularly in countries with weak labor laws and limited oversight mechanisms. (Source: Clean Clothes Campaign, 2021)
  13. Hazardous Conditions: Workers in the textile industry are often subjected to hazardous chemicals and unsafe working conditions, contributing to health issues such as respiratory diseases and skin problems. (Source: International Labour Organization, 2021)
  14. Overconsumption: The fast fashion business model, characterised by low prices and high turnover, encourages overconsumption and the disposal of garments after limited use, leading to a significant amount of waste. (Source: United Nations Environment Programme, 2018)
  15. Waste Generation: The industry contributes greatly to global waste, as discarded clothes and textiles often end up in landfills, adding to pollution and emissions. (Source: World Resources Institute, 2021)
  16. Indigenous Displacement: The industry contributes to the exploitation and displacement of Indigenous peoples, particularly in countries such as Peru and Ecuador, where traditional communities are typically forced off their lands to make way for cotton plantations. (Source: Indigenous Environmental Network, 2021)
  17. Air Pollution: The industry has been linked to the release of hazardous chemicals into the air, leading to air pollution and respiratory problems for nearby communities. (Repeated Point, Previous Source: Greenpeace, 2020)
  18. Ecological Impact: Unsustainable practices in the industry have led to the depletion of natural resources such as water, land, and energy. Left unchecked, these practices could lead to the collapse of key ecosystems. (Source: United Nations, 2021)
Textures of the Textile Industry: The Tale of Endless Creation and Destruction
Textures of the Textile Industry: The Tale of Endless Creation and Destruction

The textile industry, indeed, stands as a substantial contributor to overproduction — a dilemma stretching beyond the boundaries of the fast fashion sector. Companies operating under the fast fashion model have fostered a culture of disposability, tempting consumers to purchase cheap, short-lived clothing that swiftly finds its way to the discard pile. This cyclical need for fresh merchandise has shot up overall textile production. As recorded in the 2015 documentary, 'The True Cost,' the fast fashion industry is responsible for the annual production of an alarming 80 billion new garments, exerting considerable pressure on our environment.

However, a closer look at the 'Fashion at the Crossroads' report by the Global Fashion Agenda and The Boston Consulting Group (2020) reveals that overproduction permeates other realms of the textile industry as well—notably, home textiles and technical textiles. The report attributes the annual production of 39 million tonnes of polyester, the textile industry's most frequented fibre, to our consumption habits. Startlingly, an approximated 60% of this production is believed to end up in landfill or incineration.

Worse still, over a third of home textiles, as noted in the European Environmental Bureau's 'Textiles in the Circular Economy' report (2018), are reported to remain unused, with many discarded after minimum usage. This overproduction problem surfaces as a significant issue for the fast fashion sector and all other aspects of the textile industry.

Yet, not all hope is lost. A growing movement of slow fashion advocates, emerging circular economy frameworks, and technology-driven initiatives are highlighting the urgency of the situation and leading the charge towards more sustainable practices in the textile industry. There is certainly a long road ahead, but with continued effort and commitment, a more sustainable textile industry is within our grasp.

It’s not just
Fast-Fashion

Fast-fashion has become a hot topic in recent years, as people have become more aware of the negative impact that it has on the environment and the workers involved in its production. However, fast-fashion isn't the only industry that relies on questionable practices to maximise consumption.

Here some more:

  1. Planned obsolescence - This is a strategy used by many manufacturers to ensure that their products have a limited lifespan. This forces consumers to replace their products more frequently, leading to more sales and more profits for the manufacturer.
  2. Over-packaging - Many products are packaged in excessive amounts of plastic or other materials, which not only adds to the cost of the product but also creates more waste.
  3. Single-use products - Disposable products, such as paper plates, plastic utensils, and even clothing, are designed to be used once and then thrown away. This creates a significant amount of waste and contributes to environmental problems.
  4. Fast food - Fast food is designed to be quick, convenient, cheap and convenient enough to keep coming back for more. Served food is often highly processed, high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, and served in disposable packaging.
  5. Disposable technology - Many electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, are designed to be replaced every few years. This creates a significant amount of electronic waste and contributes to environmental problems.
  6. Excessive packaging - Some products are wrapped in excessive amounts of packaging, such as boxes within boxes or items wrapped in plastic and then placed in a box. This not only adds to the cost of the product but also creates more waste.
  7. Planned scarcity - Some products are deliberately released in limited quantities, creating a sense of scarcity and urgency among consumers. This drives up demand and can lead to higher prices.
  8. Unnecessary upgrades - Many products, such as cars and appliances, are redesigned and upgraded every few years, even when the previous model is still perfectly functional. This creates a sense of obsolescence and drives sales of new products.
  9. Greenwashing: Some companies use misleading claims about sustainability to appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers. They may use packaging or product designs that imply eco-friendliness, but in reality, the products are made from non-recyclable materials like plastic. This harms the environment and misleads consumers.
  10. Disguising waste - For example: clothing or accessories made from synthetic fibres like polyester or acrylic, which are derived from non-renewable resources and can take hundreds of years to decompose, but marketed as eco-friendly alternatives to natural fibres like cotton or wool
  11. Deceptive advertising - Some companies use misleading or exaggerated claims in their advertising to lure consumers into buying their products. This can create false expectations and result in disappointment or even harm.
  12. Product bundling - Bundling products together at a discounted price can encourage consumers to buy more than they need or want, leading to higher sales for the company.
  13. Food expiry dates: can contribute to food waste due to confusing labels, over-caution, short shelf life, distribution inefficiencies, and production inefficiencies. It’s been found that some companies may set overly conservative expiry dates in order to increase profits by encouraging consumers to throw out food and purchase more frequently.
  14. Planned production shortages - Some companies intentionally produce fewer products than there is demand for, creating a sense of scarcity and encouraging consumers to buy quickly before the product runs out.
  15. Excessive discounting - Over-reliance on sales and discounts can create a culture of impulsive buying, as consumers feel the pressure to buy now before the sale ends.
  16. Limited edition releases - Similar to planned production shortages, releasing limited edition products creates a sense of exclusivity and encourages consumers to buy quickly before the product is gone
  17. Forced obsolescence - Some companies may intentionally make their products difficult to repair or upgrade, forcing consumers to buy new products rather than fixing their existing ones.
  18. Debt culture - Many consumers are encouraged to buy now and pay later, leading to a culture of debt and overconsumption. This can result in financial hardship and create a cycle of constant consumption.
  19. Planned production delays - Some companies intentionally delay the production or release of new products to create hype and anticipation, encouraging consumers to buy more when the product finally becomes available.
  20. Addiction engineering - In some industries, such as the gaming industry, products are designed to be addictive and keep consumers engaged for longer periods, encouraging more frequent use and potentially leading to negative effects on mental health.

PFAS Forever Chems
In Our Cloths

And then there is this ominous reality about the huge group of man-made PFAS – insidious 'forever chemicals' that stealthily seep into the fabric of our lives. Since their inception in the mid-20th century, these per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances have infiltrated the textile industry, tainting everything from Fashion and Outdoor Gear and Uniforms to School Uniforms and even our Workout Clothes Many countries are considering or are in the process of legislating to ban PFAS.
PFAS contamination is a global public health threat requiring comprehensive action and solutions - check out this photo from Italy
Pressure mounts on administrations worldwide to outlaw PFAS as a measure to safeguard their citizens. The challenge for businesses presently incorporating PFAS into their offerings lies in identifying suitable alternatives.
While the toxic nature of these substances becomes increasingly apparent globally, their alarming persistence in the environment and living organisms only adds to the urgency. The pressure to transform the textile industry and phase out PFAS from our products is undoubtedly mounting and more urgent than ever.

Read how Lotus Nano can assist replacing PFAS with Nanotech

But There Is Hope

There is a lot of movement in the industry big and small besides uncountable corporate, producer and private initiatives. Here a number of amazing initiatives run by non-profits. These organisations have made significant contributions to the textile industry as a whole, promoting sustainability, circular practices, worker's rights, and environmental protection. Their initiatives have had an impact beyond just the fashion industry, as they encourage responsible production and consumption of textiles more broadly.

💡
Know of other amazing initiatives by NGO’s who have made significant contributions to the textile industry? Please let us know. We are glad to add them!)
  1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation - A non-profit organisation that promotes a circular economy and has launched the Make Fashion Circular initiative to encourage sustainable practices in the fashion industry.
  2. Sustainable Apparel Coalition - A group of leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, and manufacturers that works to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products.
  3. Textile Exchange - A global non-profit organisation that promotes sustainability in the textile industry and develops standards for responsible fibre production and processing.
  4. The Better Cotton Initiative - A non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable cotton farming practices and supports the livelihoods of cotton farmers.
  5. ZDHC Foundation - A group of major apparel and footwear brands that works to eliminate hazardous chemicals from textile production.
  6. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) - A standard for organic fibres that ensures environmentally and socially responsible production of textiles.
  7. Bluesign - A system that provides a comprehensive solution for sustainable textile production that focuses on minimising the impact of textiles on people and the environment.
  8. Made-By - A non-profit organisation that works with fashion brands and retailers to improve sustainability in their supply chains.
  9. Canopy - A non-profit organisation that works to protect the world's forests and encourages the use of sustainable alternatives to wood-based fabrics like viscose and rayon.
  10. WRAP - A non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable production practices and supports workers' rights in the apparel and textile industry.
  11. The Higg Index - A sustainability assessment tool for the apparel and footwear industry that helps companies measure and improve their environmental and social performance.
  12. The Textile Mission - A non-profit organisation that supports traditional textile communities and promotes the use of natural and sustainable materials.
  13. The Sustainable Fashion Alliance - A global community of sustainable fashion professionals that supports the growth of sustainable fashion.
  14. Remake - A non-profit organisation that raises awareness about the impact of fast fashion and encourages consumers to buy less and better quality clothing.
  15. Fashion Revolution - A non-profit organisation that campaigns for greater transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry.
  16. Common Objective - A global platform that connects sustainable fashion professionals and provides resources to promote sustainable practices.
  17. The Circular Fashion Summit - An annual event that brings together fashion industry professionals to discuss and promote circular fashion practices.
  18. The Fashion for Good initiative - A global platform that promotes and funds sustainable innovations in the fashion industry.
  19. The Resellfridges initiativee - A resale platform launched by the UK department store Selfridges to promote circular fashion practices.
  20. Re:newcell - A Swedish start-up that has developed a process for recycling cotton and other cellulosic fibres into new fabrics, reducing the need for new raw materials and diverting waste from landfills.

While NGOs and governmental organisations play an essential role in promoting sustainability in the textile industry, private industries are responsible for a significant portion of the environmental impact of textile production. Therefore, it is essential for private industries to take significant steps towards sustainability - such as (and by no means limited to):

💡
Know of other outstanding initiatives by private companies who have made significant contributions to the textile industry? Please let us know. We are glad to add them here!)

Fortunately, many private textile companies are starting to recognise the need for sustainability and are taking action to reduce their environmental impact. For example, H&M, one of the world's largest fashion retailers, has committed to becoming 100% circular and climate positive by 2030. They have launched several sustainability initiatives, including their "Conscious Collection" made from sustainable materials and their garment recycling program. Another example is Levi Strauss & Co., which has set science-based targets for reducing carbon emissions and water use in its production process.

Other textile companies, such as Adidas, Nike, and Patagonia, have also made significant sustainability commitments and launched interesting initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. These and many other companies are implementing sustainable materials, investing in renewable energy, reducing waste, recycling and improving supply chain transparency.

However, it is also true that there is still much work to be done. The textile industry needs to continue to push towards sustainability - and real quick! Private industries must make more significant commitments and take concrete steps to reduce their environmental impact, work towards a circular economy, and ensure the welfare of workers throughout their supply chains.

What
Nanotech
can do

Lotus Nano is an industrial nanocoating company that specialises in providing solutions to various industries, including textiles. The science of nanotechnology is not widely known or understood by the general public, and the industry often struggles with marketing and promoting its capabilities effectively. At Lotus Nano, we believe it is important to highlight the progress that has already been made in the field of nanotechnology and share the ongoing efforts to further enhance the sustainability of the textile industry.

While the scientific community and industry experts are aware of the vast potential of nanotechnology, the public's knowledge about the technology and its applications is often limited. This can be attributed to various reasons, including the complexity of the technology, the lack of awareness campaigns, and the challenges associated with communicating scientific concepts to non-experts.

💡
Want to know more about Nanotech and Nanocoating and what it can do in your industry? Visit Lotus Nano’s Insights Hub for more case studies, articles and publications.

Additionally, there is some level of skepticism and fear surrounding the use of nanotechnology due to concerns about potential environmental and health risks. It is essential for researchers and companies working in the field and companies like us to address these concerns and promote transparency about the safety of nanotechnology applications.

Nanotechnology is a rapidly developing field that has the potential to revolutionise the textile industry. It involves the manipulation and engineering of materials at the nanoscale, which is typically less than 100 nanometers in size.

By utilising the unique properties of nanoparticles, nanotechnology can enhance various stages of the textile lifecycle, from the raw materials to the finished products, and even at the end of a product's life.

Nanotechnology is particularly relevant to the textile industry, as it has the potential to improve the entire lifecycle of textiles, from production to disposal. By using nanotechnology, it is possible to create textiles with enhanced properties and functionalities, such as increased strength, durability, and water resistance. Additionally, nanocoatings can be applied to textiles to provide antimicrobial and self-cleaning properties, which can improve the hygiene and longevity of textile products.

Nanotechnology can also be used to improve the sustainability of the textile industry. By incorporating nanomaterials into textile production, it is possible to reduce the amount of raw materials and energy required, while also reducing waste and pollution. For example, nanocellulose fibres can be used to create textiles that are more sustainable and eco-friendly than traditional textiles made from synthetic fibres.

Moreover, nanotechnology can improve the end-of-life of textile products. By incorporating nanoparticles into textile materials, it is possible to create fabrics that can be easily disassembled and recycled. This can reduce the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills and reduce the environmental impact of textile production.

Before textile production

Nanotechnology can be used even before textiles are produced. Here are some ways that nanotechnology can be used to enhance raw materials:

During the textile production

During the textile production process, nanotechnology can be used to enhance various properties of the fabrics. Here are some ways that nanotechnology can be used during the textile production process:

End of life

At the end of a textile's life, nanotechnology can also play a role in reducing waste and creating a circular economy. Here are some ways that nanotechnology can be used at the end of a product's life:

Using Nanotechnology to improve textile properties

The use of nanotechnology has allowed for the creation of textiles with improved properties such as strength, durability, and water resistance since the early 2000s and is 100% PFAS free. This technology has found applications in various areas including medical textiles, sportswear, and outdoor gear, providing several advantages.

a) Water Repellency and Breathability

One of the most significant applications of nanocoatings in textiles is the creation of fabrics with enhanced water repellency and breathability. By using nanocoatings, manufacturers can create fabrics that are more resistant to water, while also allowing air to pass through the material. This makes them ideal for use in outdoor and sportswear, where protection from the elements is critical.

Nanocoatings are used in two ways to enhance the water repellency of fabrics: by creating a superhydrophobic surface and by creating a hydrophilic surface. A superhydrophobic surface is one that repels water and other liquids due to its unique surface structure, which causes the liquid to bead up and roll off the surface. On the other hand, a hydrophilic surface attracts water and other liquids, making them ideal for use in moisture-wicking fabrics.

b) Stain Resistance

📌
Nanocoatings can make textiles and fabrics more stain-resistant, making them easier to clean and maintain. By creating a barrier on the surface of the fabric, nanocoatings can prevent stains from penetrating the fibres, reducing the risk of permanent damage. This is particularly important for high-traffic areas such as upholstery and carpets, as well as clothing and textiles used in food service, healthcare, and other industries where staining is common.

In addition to reducing the need for cleaning, nanocoatings can also reduce the need for harsh chemicals in the cleaning process. Traditional stain treatments often require harsh chemicals such as bleach or ammonia to remove stains, which can damage the fabric and be harmful to the environment. Nanocoatings, on the other hand, can make fabrics self-cleaning or water-repellent, reducing the need for harsh chemicals and making cleaning easier and more sustainable.

Stain resistant table cloth.
Stain resistant table cloth.

c) Odour Control and Antimicrobial Properties:

Nanocoatings can also provide odour control and antimicrobial properties to textiles and fabrics, making them more hygienic and reducing the risk of infection. This is particularly important in healthcare settings, where textiles and fabrics can harbour harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.

📌
Antimicrobial nanocoatings can kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, preventing the spread of infection. This is particularly important for textiles and fabrics used in healthcare settings, as well as for clothing and other textiles used in public spaces such as hotels and restaurants.

Odour controlling nanocoatings, on the other hand, can prevent the buildup of odours on textiles and fabrics, making them more hygienic and pleasant to use. This is particularly important for sports apparel and outdoor gear, as well as for textiles used in automotive and aerospace applications.

Antimicrobial Nanocoatings protect medical textiles 24/7 - decreasing the probability of healthcare associated infection (HAI) considerably
Antimicrobial Nanocoatings protect medical textiles 24/7 - decreasing the probability of healthcare associated infection (HAI) considerably

In addition to their hygienic properties, nanocoatings can also improve the durability and performance of textiles and fabrics. By providing protection against stains, odours, and microbial growth, nanocoatings can extend the life of the fabric, reducing the need for frequent replacement and saving on material and labor costs over time.

Nanotech can prevent odours easily and efficiently.
Nanotech can prevent odours easily and efficiently.

d) Self-Cleaning Textiles

📌
Self-cleaning textiles refer to fabrics that are designed to clean themselves without the need for external washing or cleaning. These textiles typically incorporate innovative materials and technologies that can repel dirt, oil, and other contaminants, preventing them from adhering to the fabric surface.

One common approach to creating self-cleaning textiles is to incorporate nanoparticles into the fabric's fibres or coating. These nanoparticles can form a hydrophobic or oleophobic layer on the fabric's surface, making it resistant to water, oil, and other liquids. When dirt or other contaminants come into contact with the fabric, they are repelled and can be easily wiped away.

Another approach involves incorporating photocatalytic nanomaterials, such as titanium dioxide, into the fabric. When exposed to light, these materials can break down organic compounds and bacteria that accumulate on the fabric surface, effectively cleaning it.

Self-cleaning textiles have several potential applications, including in clothing, upholstery, and outdoor gear. They can reduce the need for frequent washing or cleaning, which can save water and energy and extend the lifespan of the fabric. Additionally, they can provide benefits such as improved hygiene and odour control.

Advantages of Using Nanocoatings in Textile Manufacturing Today

In addition to the various applications of nanocoatings in textiles, there are also several advantages to using nanocoatings in textile manufacturing. These include:

Reduced Use of Harmful Chemicals

Traditional textile manufacturing often involves the use of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde and chlorine, which can be harmful to both workers and the environment. By using nanocoatings, manufacturers can reduce the use of these chemicals, resulting in a safer and more sustainable manufacturing process.

Longer Lifespan for Textiles

Nanocoatings can provide long-lasting protection to textiles and fabrics, ensuring that they retain their properties over time. By creating a durable layer of protection on the surface of the fabric, nanocoatings can prevent wear and tear and extend the life of the fabric. This reduces the need for frequent replacement, saving textile manufacturers material and labour costs over time.

Creation of New Product Categories

Nanocoatings can be used to create new product categories that were previously impossible to manufacture. For example, nanocoatings can be used to create fabrics with integrated electronics or to create textiles that can change colour or pattern based on the environment.

Enhanced durability

Nanocoatings can significantly improve the durability of textiles and fabrics by making them more resistant to wear and tear, abrasion, and other forms of damage. By creating a thin layer of protective coating on the surface of the fabric, nanocoatings can prevent the penetration of water, dirt, and other contaminants that can cause damage over time. This results in textiles and fabrics that retain their quality and appearance for a longer period of time, reducing the need for frequent replacement.

Improved sustainability

Nanocoatings can play a significant role in improving the sustainability of textile production by reducing the use of harsh chemicals, water, and energy. For example, by making textiles and fabrics water and stain resistant, nanocoatings can reduce the need for frequent washing, which can save on water and energy costs. In addition, by reducing the need for harsh chemicals in the textile production process, nanocoatings can significantly reduce the environmental impact of textile production.

Increased safety

Nanocoatings can impart various safety properties to textiles and fabrics, making them suitable for various applications. For example, nanocoatings can provide flame retardancy to textiles, making them suitable for use in high-risk environments such as hospitals or industrial settings. In addition, nanocoatings can provide antimicrobial activity to textiles, making them more hygienic and reducing the risk of infection.

Enhanced performance and functionality

Nanocoatings can significantly enhance the performance and functionality of textiles and fabrics by imparting various properties such as water repellency, oil resistance, and stain resistance. For example, nanocoatings can make sportswear and outdoor apparel more water-resistant, keeping the wearer dry and comfortable in wet conditions. Similarly, nanocoatings can make upholstery more stain-resistant, making it easier to clean and maintain.

Improved aesthetics

Nanocoatings can enhance the appearance of textiles and fabrics by making them more vibrant, shiny, or matte. For example, nanocoatings can create a metallic or iridescent finish on fabrics, adding a decorative touch to fashion and design applications. Additionally, nanocoatings can create embossed or textured patterns on fabrics, providing a unique look and feel.

Cost-effective

Nanocoatings can significantly reduce the cost of textile production by reducing the need for expensive treatments such as dyeing, printing, and finishing. By imparting properties such as water repellency and stain resistance to fabrics, nanocoatings can eliminate the need for these costly treatments, saving textile manufacturers time and money. In addition, by reducing the need for frequent washing, nanocoatings can also save on water and energy costs.

Customisable

Nanocoatings can be tailored to meet the specific needs of textile and fabric manufacturers. For example, nanocoatings can be designed to provide specific properties such as hydrophobicity, oleophobicity, or conductivity, depending on the application. This customisation allows textile and fabric manufacturers to create products that meet the unique needs of their customers.

Example Use Cases of Nano Textiles / Fabrics Today

Nanotechnology is not the magic bullet but it can make a huge difference in the entire lifecycle of the textile industry. By enhancing raw materials, improving the production process, and creating more sustainable and circular products, nanotechnology can help reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry and create a more sustainable future.

While there are still challenges and concerns surrounding the use of nanotechnology, such as the potential health and safety risks, the benefits of this vast technology sector cannot be ignored. It is essential for the textile industry to embrace nanotechnology and continue to explore new ways to innovate and create sustainable solutions for the future. Ultimately, it is a collective responsibility to work towards a more sustainable and ethical future for the textile industry. All our actions today will have consequences for the generations that follow ours - in good and in bad.

A Final
Thought

The textile industry, known for its massive waste and harmful emissions, poses a great challenge to sustainable development. Despite the tremendous benefits that nanotechnology can offer to improve the sustainability of textile production and use, it alone cannot change the root cause of the problem, which lies in our consumption habits.

Nanotech innovations, such as enhancing textile durability, stain resistance, and moisture-wicking, can undoubtedly offer significant value to the industry. However, they cannot address the fundamental issue of excessive consumption and the fast fashion culture that dominates the textile industry. This industry model encourages consumers to indulge in inexpensive and disposable clothing, which only aggravates the existing environmental degradation.

To truly tackle the environmental impact of the textile industry, we must alter our consumption patterns and demand that manufacturers adopt more sustainable practices. This includes reducing our overall consumption of textiles, choosing high-quality and long-lasting products, and supporting companies that prioritise eco-friendly production methods.

While nanotech can certainly make a substantial difference in the industry's ecological footprint, it cannot single-handedly address the underlying systemic issues that lead to overconsumption and waste. Only through collective behavioural changes and demands for sustainable solutions can we create a textile industry that is more environmentally conscious and responsible, one that can be sustained for future generations.

Learn
about our
Services

Contact us to discuss Nanocoatings for the Textile Industry

Get in touch!
UP