FAQ of NTX Cooltrans™

Sustainability in Textiles – Everything You Need to Know

We believe that education is a critical part of our mission to create revolutionary textile solutions that are ecologically and economically sustainable. With this mind, we are publishing this FAQ to enlighten all interested parties in what it means to achieve truly sustainable textile processes. We also want to dispel some of the common myths or misunderstandings circulating in the textile domain.

  • While NTX was founded as a research organization focused on idealistic sustainability goals, we believe in a practical approach to transforming the textile industry into a more eco-friendly and sustainable ecosystem. With that in mind we adhere to the following principles:

    • We are committed to developing and implementing solutions that can have a dramatic impact today rather than waiting for the perfect solution to be ready tomorrow.
    • We do not wait and nitpick until the solution is perfect but rather proactively implement gradual actionable improvements with the confidence that the cumulative accrual will bring us closer to perfection.
    • We focus on solutions that can impact a great number of stakeholders, rather than innovations that can only be afforded by the top 1% of global consumers.
    • We look for improvements that address the fundamental ecological threats rather than solutions that simply meet superficially set standards and try to get around the underlying issue.
  • There are four main areas where the textile industry has a big impact on the ecological system:

    • Water consumption – a host of recent studies indicate that the textile industry consumes upwards of 93 billion cubic meters annually, that’s enough to fill 37 Million Olympic size swimming pools. A great bulk of the water consumption is the result of the coloration process, other factors such as ground water needed to cultivate cotton also play a role.
    • Water pollution – an estimated 20% of global wastewater is caused by the coloration and finishing processes. This is the result of the use of hazardous materials and chemical dyes. More recently the presence of microfibers in our waterways is making headlines, this is primarily caused by synthetic fibers shed during washing cycles.
    • Greenhouse gas emissions – traditional textile plants are heat intensive environments utilizing inefficient processes and machinery resulting in approximately 10% of global carbon emissions.
    • Textile waste in landfills – finally the prominence of fast fashion has resulted in abundant production of clothing meant to be worn just a few times and discarded. In Europe for example, the citizenry consume about 26 kg of clothing per year and discard 11 kilos.

    NTX was founded to specifically address these issues and offer a new way forward for the textile industry. NTX Cooltrans waterless coloration technology for instance is able to achieve accurate colorization of nearly any fabric material without heat, up to 90% reduction in water use, 40% reduction in dye use, while retaining uncompromising color fastness, hand feel, and functional performance.

  • Sustainable textiles refer to material used for the manufacture of clothing or footwear that has been produced using eco-friendly technologies and/or using eco-friendly resources. Some environmentally friendly resources include sustainably grown crops used to create fabrics or recycled materials such as PET bottles. Regardless of the raw materials, the coloration and finishing processes have been a bottleneck to keeping the environmental impact to a minimum. This involves eliminating the use of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, as well as factories that don’t pollute or overuse the local water supply.

    When looking to identify eco-friendly textile solutions, there are internationally recognized classification such as the Higg’s index to evaluate the environmental impact of a specific producer. In reality, when you step into a processing plant that claims to be sustainable, you should see a place that is clean and safe to work in. Instead of steam and vats of hot boiling odorous liquids, you would see something resembling the shiny stainless steel of a modern high tech production facility.

    NTX™ Cooltrans™ technology has consistently outperformed mainstream textile production methods when utilizing third party assessment tools such as the Higg’s index.

  • Traditional coloration of textiles continues to resemble the millennia-old hot temperature dye baths that require mixing of cloth to achieve the desired output. The inputs necessary to achieve the output are:

    • Large amounts of water to soak the fabrics
    • Large amounts of energy to heat the water in order to induce the color absorption
    • Large amounts of dyes to ensure accurate coloration
    • Large amounts of chemicals to ensure evenness to the coloration process

    NTX™ technologies focus on eliminating or reducing all of these factors to achieve minimum impact on the environment.

  • The world is waking up to the detrimental effects of textile coloration on the environment. As a result many new technologies are springing up to address the issue of eco-friendly dyeing while retaining the high quality and feel of the final product. While the technologies are often proprietary, they all implement a combination of implementing new manufacturing technologies along with swapping or elimination of harmful inputs. Specific issues being addressed are:

    • Elimination of toxic dyes – this refers to eliminating harmful dyes, most prominent being Azo dyes from the dyeing process.
    • Improving the manufacturing process – moving away from the traditional high heat, high water usage processes towards newer more efficient technologies. Similarly to what the paper industry has implemented in the 20th century in the production of magazines, these types of inkjet-like printing technologies are also available to the textile industry.

    One should also be aware of some processes that may seem like they are environmentally friendly but if you look under the surface they involve initial processes which are quite detrimental to the environment. One example is that of coloration solutions that claim to use 100% natural dyes, indigo for instance. What is not mentioned is the fact that the process involved in extracting the natural dyes from the plant is actually a very toxic and environmentally unfriendly process.

  • There is a common misunderstanding about the term “waterless” with regards to coloration solutions. It does not mean the complete elimination of water, but rather a dramatic reduction in the quantities of water needed to apply during coloring and finishing processes to various substrates. In general, waterless dyeing refers to a variety of processes which may differ in implementation but have water saving results.

    When it comes to NTX Cooltrans specifically, the use of water is cut by up to an incredible 90%. The quantity of chemicals and the energy requirements are also drastically reduced. This is achieved by:

    1. Our waterless dyeing technology eliminates the need for water baths which necessitate large quantities of water to allow for the dye transfer to the fabric. The liquor ratio used in textiles can reach 1:20 or even 1:40 for dyeing and pretreatment of various fibers. In other words you may need 20 liters of water simply for the dyeing of 1 kg of fabric, when you take all the processes into account up to 200 liters of water are needed to produce 1kg of fabric.
    2. The application of a very precise dye dosing rather than soaking in a liquor also eliminates excessive dye use. This is because when dye baths are used for coloration the concentration of the dye within the liquor must be significantly higher than the amount which needs to be transferred to the fabric. The need for higher concentration of dye is due to natural laws which mandate that a fabric will only absorb dye until equilibrium is reached with the liquor in which it is soaked. The end result is the same concentration of dye in the fabric as in the remaining liquor.
    3. Another key advantage of colorless dyeing is the fact that because the amount of dye used is very precise, the wash off is minimal, eliminating waste water and associated waste water treatment facilities needed in traditional coloration processes.
  • The textile industry ranks as the second largest global consumer of water with many studies indicating that up to 80 billion cubic meters of water are utilized in the production cycle of the clothing and apparel industries. With such great consumption numbers there are also great opportunities for water savings. They include:

    • Farmers of natural fibers like cotton can implement sustainable water usage practices to help reduce the amount of water necessary to produce plant based fabrics.
    • Fabric processing plants can implement waterless coloration technologies to reduce the required water consumption by as much as 90%.
    • Textile plants can move to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in the processing of textiles as these types of practices go hand in hand with water requirements to rinse the textiles and clean the facilities.
    • Consumers can take care to buy higher quality products that won’t end up in landfills within a year of purchase. Consumers can also be more vigilant about buying products from brands that live up to their sustainability pledges.
  • Energy usage in the textile industry is primarily the result of two factors, the first being the inefficient heating of water during the coloration process, and second, the drying of textiles following the coloration process. As such, energy usage is highly correlated to the amount of water used in the processing of textiles.

    Companies involved in the clothing, apparel, and accessory businesses can have a big impact on the reduction of energy in the industry by insisting that their suppliers implement waterless coloration processes. This involves upgrading of machinery and implementing the latest waterless dyeing technologies – NTX Cooltrans being one prominent technology recently implemented by Adidas.

  • It is not easy to fully understand the eco-footprint of the entire value chain of some of the most well known apparel brands. Consumers must look beyond great sounding sustainability pledges and look for verifiable signals that responsible strategies are actually being implemented. Some certifications and quantitative benchmarks include the Higg Index, as well as the ZDHC MRSL certifications. These third party verified evaluations assure us that the plants that make up the value of the big brands are actually utilizing eco-friendly textile production practices.

  • The Higg index is a tool used to evaluate the social and environmental performance of products. It is made up of five tools: the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM), Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM), Higg Brand & Retail Module (BRM), Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), and Higg Product Module (PM). Together they allow us to understand how the entire value chain associated with a product performs with regards to social and environmental responsibility criteria.

  • RSL stands for Restricted Substances List is a list from most brand houses which indicate substances considered harmful or hazardous which should not be present on any textile item which their supplier must comply with.

    Some brand houses go a step further in mandatory compliance with MRSL. MRSL stands for Manufacturing Restricted Substances List, and is a list that indicates substances considered harmful or hazardous which should not only be excluded on any apparel item, but also during the manufacturing process for the health and safety of manufactures.

    ZDHC stands for Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals and refers to the certification and testing programs that help industry players qualify their supply chain with regards to reducing or eliminating the amount of hazardous chemicals that are discharged during production processes.

  • Fashion brands and retailers should examine their entire value chain and start positioning themselves towards more circular models. This involves evaluating their suppliers and their own practices with regards to the use of toxic inputs and irresponsible resource utilization like energy and water. The above-mentioned certifications are some easy to implement standards but the most important part involves the willingness to move beyond sustainability pledges and actually implement the available technologies that can make those pledges come true.

    Contact us to learn about NTX™ Cooltrans™ technologies and how your organization can get started moving towards a more sustainable value chain. The best part is that the reduced energy and resource costs in many cases are able to make the move a cost neutral transition.

  • Growth of the textile industry is not slowing down, in fact it is accelerating. Every year the global population is growing and poorer nations are steadily developing and inevitably the demand for fashion goods is also accelerating. These statistics tell the story of growth:

    • In the years between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production has doubled.
    • Our cumulative global consumption of textiles has reached about 62 million tons per year and projections indicate that this number will hit over 100 million tons by 2030.
    • In 2018, the global per-capita textile production reached approximately 13kg per person.
    • On average, the American consumer purchases one new item of clothing every 5.5 or about 66 items per year. 1 The rest of the World is catching up to this trend.

    While education about responsible consumption is starting to take roots, the momentum is still moving forward with regards to the growth of the textile industry. We believe it is our responsibility to transform the industry so that it can co-exist and serve the needs of the growing population in a sustainable manner.

  • Water is perhaps the most precious resource on our planet. Without clean water we simply cannot exist. The fashion industry requires enormous quantities of water to function and it is simply unsustainable for it to continue on its current trajectory. These facts tell the story:

    • It takes approximately 200 tons of water to produce one ton of textiles .
    • The textile industry uses almost 93 billion cubic meters of water per year . That’s equivalent to about 12,000 liters per person and about 4% of global water extraction.
    • Not all of that water is used efficiently – causing the fashion industry to be responsible for 20% of water waste worldwide.
    • The inefficiency can be illustrated by the fact that to make just one cotton shirt it takes about 2700 liters of water 6. That’s enough to supply drinking water to one person for 2.5 years.

    It is stunning statistics like this that give urgency to adoption and further development of more water efficient technologies for the textile industry. Technologies like https://portal.higg.org/ that rethink what is possible and are able to cut water usage by up to 90% from the traditionally extremely water intensive coloration process.

  • Energy usage and the resulting contribution to CO2 emissions by the textile industry are enormous and accelerating. New more efficient methods of textile production are a prerequisite of the industry continuing to thrive. These statistics crystalize the need to implement change:

    • The United Nations estimates that the textile industry produces up to 10% of total global CO2 emissions. This is greater than 1.7 billion tons of CO2 annually – which is about 0.2 tons of CO2 for every person on the planet.
    • If greenhouse gas emissions from the industry grow at the projected rate of 49% per year between 2016 and 2030, this will result in 5,945 million metric tons CO2eq being produced in 2030.
Supplemental Information

Let us know your questions about sustainability in the textile industry.
Send us an email to info@ntx.global and we’ll continue to build out this FAQ.