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Dyehouse Selection:
A major opportunity to reduce environmental impact
Recycled, organic fabric that is dyed in a poorly managed dyehouse will likely have a much higher environmental impact than a conventional fabric dyed in a well-managed dyehouse.
What are the environmental impacts of a dyeing mill?
Preparing, dyeing, and finishing fabric is
a water-intensive process that uses large quantities of chemicals and energy—and one that causes an enormous amount of unnecessary pollution. Improving dyehouse performance provides a significant opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of textile production. In fact, experts estimate that in China, more than 80
percent of the water and energy used to make apparel and more than half of the chemicals used post fiber production are in this one step of the manufacturing process. NRDC’s Ten Best Practices provide simple, cost saving suggestions to improve fabric mill process efficiencies, reducing the mill’s environmental footprint and saving money.
Untreated or poorly treated wastewater discharge
Many dyehouses (and printers and laundries) do not properly treat their wastewater effluent either because they lack adequately trained staff or because they want to save costs in the electricity and chemicals required for proper operation and maintenance.
harmfUl chemical Use
Although the industry is making progress identifying and specifically restricting certain hazardous compounds, there are still many harmful chemicals used in conventional production of textiles, many of which have safer substitutes.
poor process management
Even factories that comply with discharge limits and minimize the use of toxic ingredients
can be very wasteful in terms of water, energy and chemical consumption. In addition, poor manufacturing controls often lead to problems in getting the color on an order right. Right first time dyeing is important in reducing environmental impact because if the order needs to be run again, all the chemicals, energy, and water used the first time around has been wasted. Typically half of the fabric dyed worldwide comes out the wrong color and needs a correction.
What are the solutions?
ten best practices
NRDC’s Ten Best Practices provide an excellent starting point for reducing impact. They reduce inefficiencies and waste typical in many dyehouses in China and the developing world.
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To find out more about the heaviest environmental impacts in the fashion industry, please see the Clean By Design website:
© Natural Resources Defense Council April 2012

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