Combating Toxic Chemicals and Reducing Environmental Footprint 

Blog Post by: Karun Tyagi

The fashion industry uses around 93 billion cubic meters (21 trillion gallons) of water annually, enough to fill 37 million Olympic swimming pools, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Along with finishing, dyeing is the most polluting and energy-intensive processes involved in making our clothes.

Textile wet processing is when chemicals or treatments are applied to the fabric to give it the desired look or feel — such as bleaching, softening, or making the garment water-resistant or anti-wrinkle. Large amounts of water and chemicals are also used during dyeing, to ensure vivid colors bind to the fabric and don’t fade or wash out.

The textile dyes significantly compromise the quality of water bodies, increase biochemical and chemical oxygen demand (BOD and COD), impair photosynthesis, inhibit plant growth, enter the food chain, provide recalcitrance, and bioaccumulation, and may promote toxicity, mutagenicity, and carcinogenicity.

Fashion is responsible for up to one-fifth of industrial water pollution, thanks in part to weak regulation and enforcement in producer countries like China, India and Bangladesh, where wastewater is commonly dumped directly into rivers and streams. The discharge is often a cocktail of carcinogenic chemicals, dyes, salts, and heavy metals that not only hurt the environment but pollute essential drinking water sources.

The fashion industry of hazardous chemicals is likely to become even more challenging as our clothing addiction increases. Apparel consumption is set to rise by 63% to 102 million tons a year in 2030, according to a 2017 Pulse of the Fashion report. Every season we know that the fashion industry needs to highlight new colors,” and “each time you have a new color you’re going to use more, new kinds of chemicals, dyestuffs, and pigments 

Once wet processing of textiles has done the cheapest way for factories to get rid of unusable, chemical-laden wastewater is to dump it into nearby rivers and lakes.

Water pollution from the textile industry is a huge problem across garment-producing countries, most of which are found in Asia due to its huge pool of cheap labor. Workers and people living close to factories often bear the brunt of the pollution. Gastrointestinal problems and skin diseases are among the common ailments that he attributes directly to textile pollution. The chemicals used to dye clothes also impact garment workers who, in some factories, don’t have adequate protective clothing and may inhale toxic fumes

Today, the regular use of petroleum-based products and other non-renewable assets are depleting the world’s natural resources. In addition to the damage caused by this depletion, the use of these natural resources has resulted in serious environmental damage — burning petroleum-based fuels have seriously damaged the Earth’s atmosphere, while petroleum and oil-based products harm the ecosystem

As our clothing addiction grows, the fashion industry’s use of hazardous chemicals is expected to become much more difficult. According to the 2017 Pulse of the Fashion study, apparel consumption is expected to increase by 63% to 102 million tonnes per year by 2030. We know that the fashion industry wants to showcase new colours every season,” and “every time you have a new hue, you’re going to utilise more, new kinds of chemicals, dyestuffs, and pigments.”

The Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is a multi-criteria measure of the environmental performance of products that are based on petrochemicals as well as products that are bio based across the product’s entire life cycle. 

PEF information is compiled with the ultimate goal of finding ways to lessen the negative effects that products have on the environment, taking into account the actions that occur along the supply chain (from extraction of raw materials, through production and use, to final waste management). The Product Environmental Footprint offers a methodology for modelling the environmental consequences of the flows of material and energy as well as the emissions and waste streams associated with a product throughout product life cycle.

The purpose of lifecycle thinking is to develop products that are more sustainable in the long run, both in terms of the impact they have on the environment and the benefits they provide to society and the economy. Inventors need to evaluate the whole spectrum of affects that their invention will have throughout the course of its existence in order to accomplish this goal. For instance, they need to consider the amount of energy and water that is needed during manufacture, the pollutants that are emitted during usage, and the waste that is produced when the product reaches the end of its useful life.

Chemists working in the bio based industry are addressing environmentally and socioeconomically unsustainable dependence on petroleum which remains the key feedstock for a wide array of products. Biobased chemicals defined as chemical products that are wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin (for example biomasses, feedstock, but also plants, algae, crops, trees, marine organisms and biological waste).

Given their expected limited environmental footprint in comparison to their traditional counterparts, bio-based chemicals have recently emerged on global markets as valid, environmentally friendly alternatives to standard chemicals

In the past, bio-based chemical products were rarely able to compete with traditional chemical processes and products. Scientists identify production costs as the main barrier to the growth of the bio-based chemicals’ market, as these are still higher than for their traditional counterparts. Also, some bio-based chemicals are still considered to be risky in terms of upfront investments in infrastructure or future sales.

However, as technology and chemical methods have improved, the bio-based chemical industry has become increasingly profitable and is now poised to take over a large share of the market. Sustainability-minded manufacturers and consumers welcome these environmentally friendly alternatives, and as a result, the demand for sustainable chemicals has only been increasing.

Industry 4.0 has emerged as a significant tool in recent years as a means of enhancing manufacturing processes with bio-based materials. In this article, we will investigate some of the applications of Industry 4.0 that can be found in the production of bio-based products.

Precision agriculture

The requirement for a reliable supply of biomass feedstocks of a high quality is one of the most critical issues faced in the production of bio-based products. Precision agriculture is one application where the technologies of Industry 4.0 can be applied to optimise the growth of biomass crops. Real-time monitoring of soil moisture, nutrient levels, and crop health may be accomplished with the help of sensors and data analytics. This enables farmers to make decisions regarding irrigation, fertilisation, and pest control that are informed by the collected data. This leads to increased crop yields, improved crop quality, and less of an influence on the surrounding ecosystem.

Intelligent bioreactors

The transformation of biomass feedstocks into useable materials and chemicals requires the utilisation of bioreactors in the creation of bio-based products. The production process can be improved by utilising technologies from the Industry 4.0 movement in bioreactors. The manufacturing process may be monitored and controlled in real time with the help of automation and data analytics, which leads to improvements in both productivity and quality. As a consequence, this leads to increased yields, decreased costs of production, and less of an influence on the environment.

Optimization of the supply chain

The supply chain for bio-based materials and chemicals can be improved with the help of technologies that are part of the Industry 4.0 movement. The application of data analytics makes it possible to monitor the movement of components and finished goods along a supply chain, locate areas where efficiencies may be improved, and enhance overall logistics. As a consequence, this leads to decreased expenditures for transportation, enhanced performance in inventory management, and enhanced quality of service to customers.

Circular economy

The circular economy can be supported by using technology from the Industry 4.0 revolution in manufacturing bio-based products. For example, sensors and data analytics can be used to monitor the quality and condition of bio-based materials throughout their lifecycle. This makes recycling and repurposing bio-based materials more efficient. This leads to less waste, increased efficiency in the use of resources, and a production process that is more environmentally friendly.

Digital twin

Creating digital twins of bio-based manufacturing processes is something that can be accomplished with the use of technologies that are part of the Industry 4.0 movement. Digital twins are digital representations of physical systems that enable manufacturers to model and optimise their operations prior to applying changes in the physical world. Digital twins can be created virtually using specialised software. This leads to an improvement in the design of the process, a reduction in downtime, and an increase in efficiency.

As a conclusion, it can be stated that Industry 4.0 has the potential to play a key role in the progression of bio-based manufacturing by increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and enhancing supply chains. Using these technologies will allow us to facilitate the movement towards a more environmentally friendly and circular economy that is founded on the use of renewable biomass feedstocks. A viable strategy to address the growing demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products while at the same time minimising the impact on the environment is to combine bio-based manufacturing with technology from the fourth industrial revolution, often known as Industry 4.0.


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