The textile industry has long been one of the greatest greenhouse gas producers on the planet. Textile production has the fifth-largest carbon footprint of any industry in the U.S. and in developing nations, the impact is even more substantial. However, new tech textiles are working hard to make the industry more sustainable.
How can better textiles reduce carbon emissions?
- Alternative fabrics are taking hold.
Some of the most common textiles are also the most harmful to the environment. Cotton necessitates more pesticide use than any other crop in the U.S., and polyester requires the use of over 70,000,000 barrels of oil each year. Alternative textiles such as flax, hemp, and even “spider silk” are increasingly being seen as an alternative to traditional fabrics, in part because of their increased sustainability. Many of these textiles offer properties such as conductivity and high-tensile strength that make them ideal for use in technical applications.
- Technical textiles can be made using fewer resources.
Traditional textiles require a great deal of resources to grow, procure, and process. Synthetic technical textiles such as acrylic fiber can be produced in-house requiring only common chemical compounds and specialized equipment. Additionally, these textiles can be made to exacting specifications making them ideal for small-batch or custom orders.
- “Upcycling” of synthetic materials takes off.
Upcycling is the new recycling. Advances in extrusion technology are creating new avenues for old materials. Non-textile products such as polypropylene bags and beer bottles are now able to be broken into a fine particulate which is then melted and extruded into usable fibers. Processes like these are creating less waste and reducing the distance required for sourcing of some textile components.
- Innovations in textile dyes lead to less pollution.
Dyeing is the most taxing to the environment of any textile-related process. Technical innovations in the way dyes are imbued into fabrics, from “air-dyes” that blast textiles with color to pre-dyed resin applications for composite textiles, are reducing the carbon output of the entire process. Additionally, after-dye wastewater is finding new life through innovative processes that remove recalcitrant organic compounds and produce less “sludge.”
B&W Fiberglass is excited to see what’s next in technical textiles. From conductive protection gear to glass fiber mesh, tech textiles are changing the way we build things, wear things, and produce things.
Want to learn more about how B&W’s extensive array of capabilities can make your system more sustainable? Contact our experts today to discuss.