The water footprint of the textile industry
- minutes reading time
How can we save water?
Water is precious, almost everyone knows that. At the same time, the textile industry is one of the economic sectors with the greatest impact on water consumption and water quality worldwide.
Sympatex sees itself as an important player in this issue. As a supplier of sustainable functional textiles, it is within our competence to determine the environmental data of our membranes and textiles, to use water-saving dyeing processes and, by using the latest scientific studies and project initiatives, to modify textiles in such a way that they leave as little to no trace as possible.
This blog post is intended to give you an insight into how important the topic of water is in the outdoor and textile industry and what we and every other brand can and must do to use this valuable resource properly.
How much water is in your jacket?
Who would ever think that every rain jacket also contains water? What is meant here is virtual water. In other words, the amount of water used in the production of yarns, membranes, laminates and the finished product. The total amount of water used for a product is called its water footprint.
The textile industry in particular has an immensely high water consumption and is responsible for massive water pollution worldwide.
According to estimates, the textile and clothing industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water worldwide in 2015. By 2030, consumption is expected to increase by 50%. (Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting Group, Pulse of the Fashion Industry, 2017).
We need to save water
As water is scarce and a precious commodity in many countries, it is important to reduce the water footprint. This is nothing new. However, the issue is taken on a new dimension with plastic waste polluted holiday beaches, lack of rainfall, forest fires all over Europe and water rationing in many big cities. It is no longer possible to look away; the issue of water has arrived right on our doorstep.
Standards in the textile and outdoor industry
Much has already happened in the textile industry in the last 15 years. Various movements such as Bluesign and the ZDHC (Roadmap to Zero), as well as Greenpeace’s Detox campaign, have shed light on the dirty waste water behind textile factories.
The Microfiber Consortium (TMC) and other initiatives have been dedicated to textile fibre pollution for some time. But the more information that becomes known, the more challenging the solutions seem to be.
So how can water consumption and microfibre discharges be drastically reduced today? Which measures can be taken immediately, which require new technologies or a different type of cooperation?
Solution approaches at Sympatex for lower water consumption
Sympatex sees itself as an important player in this issue. As a supplier of sustainable functional textiles, it is within our competence to determine the environmental data of our membranes and textiles, to use water-saving dyeing processes and, through the latest studies and project collaborations, to modify textiles in such a way that they leave as few to no traces as possible.
For the first time in 2017, Sympatex calculated the water consumption for its entire product portfolio. Using emission values in databases, it quickly became apparent that the Sympatex membrane achieves very low water consumption compared to other membrane materials and that the synthetic fibres used also require far less water in their production than cellulose fibres such as classic cotton.
In addition to the types of material used, there are also a number of ways in which the production and finishing of textile surfaces can be improved in order to achieve major water savings. Sympatex is pursuing various approaches in this regard, such as the use of spun-dyed and undyed textiles and the use of recycled materials.
Sympatex will also be launching undyed laminates on the market from November 2022. This will save an average of 19% water compared to conventionally dyed materials. The spinneret-dyed textiles also achieve similarly good savings potential.
The use of recycled materials allows savings of up to 17%.
Mono-materials make all the difference
Water can also be saved by using recycled laminates made from a single raw material. The lamination of our Sympatex® polyester membrane with recycled polyester outer and lining materials results in mono-material laminates. This has two advantages. First, the laminates can be returned to the closed textile loop at the end of their product life cycle without any problems. Secondly, recycled polyester requires much less water during production than new, crude oil-based polyester fibres. In fact, when you compare the production of 1kg of recycled fibres with 1kg of mineral oil-based polyester fibres, the water saving of approx. 90 percent is very impressive – instead of 60 litres of water for 1kg of fibres, you only need around 3 litres.
Re>Closing the loop.Together.
The more we connect as an industry – brands, manufacturers and retailers – and work together to improve the sustainability of our products, the faster we can drive the change we need.
In this way, we continue to move towards our goal of leaving as little trace as possible.