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Environmental Excellence at Enco

26-09-2012

The global textile industry is under mounting pressure to take responsibility for the sustainability of its supply chains, meaning an increasing need for analysis to ensure processing is as environmentally friendly as possible. There is where Enco testing services aims to s,ot a standard the rest of the industry can follow.

Charlotte Rogers reports.

HRH Prince Charles visits Enco

The global textile industry is under mounting pressure to take responsibility for the sustainability of its supply chains, meaning an increasing need for analysis to ensure processing is as environmentally friendly as possible. There is where Enco testing services aims to s,ot a standard the rest of the industry can follow. Charlotte Rogers reports.

To set a standard of excellence in the international textile industry. This is the goal of Enco global testing services and consultancy based in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
Run by Dr Mike Madden and his colleague Harvey Miller, the specialist laboratory tests samples across the supply chain from raw wool and scoured wool to yarns, carpets, fabrics and waste effluents for top makers, finishers, dyers and scourers. Whilst operating independently, the lab is based on the same site as Haworth Scouring, currently the largest wool seourer in the northern hemisphere.

The need for analysis gained prominence last year as the global textile industry came under increasing pressure to dean up its act following an international campaign by Greenpeace which revealed widespread pollution. Heavy metals such as copper, cadmium and lead were detectedin 17 out of 21 samples of water and sediment in Xintang and Gurao - two textile towns in Guangdong province, China.

Alkylphenols and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) were also discovered in wastewater samples from both the Youngor Textile Complex,on the Yangtze River Delta, and the Well Dyeing Factory, on the Pearl River Delta. Reported to have hormone-disrupting properties, alkylphenolsand PFCs can move through the food chain and travel great distances via a ir and water currents. Greenpeace is now calling on retailers to 'Detox' their supply chains, by committing to eliminate all releases of hazardous ch emicals from their entire product Iifecyde, and across their globa1 supply chains, by 2020.

'Enco passes on inforInation to make sure no one can criticise wool as a fibre. We are all united under the Campaign for Wool'

In a number of countries strict environmental regulations mean processors have to report the concentration_of heavy metals in their effluents. Enco analyses the metal content in effluent and process liquors, as well as wool and yarn, using atomic absorption spectrophotometry.

"We look at waste from wet processors and test the effluents and solid wastes for metals and chemicals - basically any element or compound you can think of, explains Dr Madden.
One of the most widespread issues encountered by Enco is insufficient mothproofing, which allows pests too undermine the structure of the textile. "Insect attacks are increasing as some processors are not as careful about applying the moth proofing agent as others."

Enco analyses the amount of mothproofing and insect resist chemicals present in yarns, carpets, fabrics and military apparel. The Enco Wheel extraction process runs samples in a solvenl through a heated bath, looking for the presence of moth proofing agent are currently working on developing an Enco friendly insect repellent with natural repellence so you don't need to kill the insect, which helps with the 'greening' of the product," says Dr Madden.

In order 10 minimise emissions to sewer, Enco has developed a code of practice for the safe handling of moth proofing agent in dyehouses,  as we1l as low residue application technologies . Consulting is mainly Dr Madden's area ofexpertise. His suggestions come from experience as well as official advice.

"We feel testing is a process people don't understand. They think it's expensive, but we advise them how to approach it and usethe results, for example, to enable them to apply a product such as moth proofer without wasting it," he explains.

Pesticides are another common agent found in residual levels in raw wool, meaning Enco's work starts on the raw fleece."We would encourage the farmers to look inlo the potential problem of pesticides," says Madden.

"Wool often comes to scouring pre-contaminated with trace levels of pesticide. After scouring the product is fine, as the pesticide is removed into sludge and effluent. However, the less pesticide in the effluent, the better it is for the environment. We have a world beatingeffluent plant here at Haworth, there is nothing else like it in the world."

If released into riversand coastal waters, pesticidec hemicals can cause significant environmental damage.

"In Europe and particularly in the UK there are stringent limits on what a mill can discharge. The less pesticide at the start of the process the better it is for the environment in all the down-stream processes that wool goes through," explains Dr Madden. "Unfortunately some millsworldwide still allow badly treated effluent to enter rivers, killing the food chain and creating a dead river."

The scientists take a sample of raw wool and combine it with a solvent which dissolves the greasy material containing the pesticide. This is removed and put through a chemical filter to separate the grease and the dirt, collecting the pure solvent and pesticide, which is evaporated down.

The solvent-pesticide mixture is then placed in the gas chromatograph. A peak at the right place in the graph indicates pesticide is present. The machine can lest a large number of pesticides at levels of parts per million to parts per billion.

A knowledge of pesticide levels can help the mill determine how its effluent treatment process can best manage any potential contaminants. It can also be used to show that the wool is free of pesticide and therefore one of the most environmentally friendly products.

The lab can also test to see if special finishes have been applied in the right amount.

In addition, part of Enco's work is to examine damage complaints such as burns, marks, processing faults and other problems with yarns and fabrics. An infra-red instrument looks at mottling or stains on the fabric, creating a fingerprint for the chemical. This is then checked against a library ofother chemicals stored in the computer.

The laboratory can abo offer physical testing of fibres and blends, in term.s of micron, length, colour and wool content. Considerable skill and experience is needed to operate the instrmnentation, which can cost as much as £35,000-£40,000 for one unit.

David Gisbourne, Haworth Scouring managing director, sees this investment in technology as crucial to take \vool to the pinnacle of sustainability.

"We want the scouring process a nd the product to be as environmentally friendly as possible," he explains. "Enco and Haworth Scouring want to act as an industry standard, worldwide. Haworth is the world leader in processing and scouring. We have an extremely good life cycle analysis (LeA) for our greasy wool scoured in the UK."

Enco has previously worked on LeA for organisations such as AWl, the British Wool Marketing Board and Nortura in Norway. The lab was also originally involved. in the creation of both the Woolmark and Wools of New Zealand moth proofing protection standards.

"Enco passes on information to make sure no one can criticise wool as a fibre. We are all united under the Campaign for Wool," Gisbourneadds."Itisimportantthatwoolshouldbeproperly valued for what it is. It is about educating people."

Haworth Scouring has also invested millions in improving the efficiency of its processes in order to raise sustainability standards. The business consumes significantly less water than other scourers and uses less energy to heat the waler.

Nothing goes to landfill. All metal and plastic used in raw wool packaging is recycled along with timber and cardboard, whilst the grease extracted from the scouring process finds a number of high value uses including feed supplements for the fishing/shrimp industry or for lanolin in beauty products. The investment in testing and improving efficiency ties in with aim of the Campaign for Wool to raise tthe profile of wool as a truly sustainable fibre, especially when traceability is becoming increasingly important to consumers.

This starts with getting the raw material as pure as possible argues Gisbourne."The Group has had the foresight not to lose this testing and consultancy service for the industry. It would have been a tragedy to lose the experience at Enco as there is no one else out there."

Scour your wool at Haworth advert

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