As a majority of the textile industry in Bangladesh relies on groundwater rather than on municipal supply for its operations, factory managers tend to view water as ‘free’. However, they forget that there is cost of pumping the water and also a cost for treating it to make it suitable for discharge in the environment. Way above the issues of cost are concerns like depleting groundwater level, over-pressured effluent treatment plants, and chronic polluting of the water bodies that have motivated the top 15 fabric manufacturers of the country to focus on initiatives for water savings. Moreover, efficient utilization of water is at the core of efficient resources utilization, a major thrust for companies today. Highlighting the key interventions done in this direction, Apparel Online spoke to Micro Fibre Group, Landmark Group, and Giant Group, besides Dr. Wolfram Engel, President & CEO of Green Project WST, considered by many as the ‘father of water savings’ in Bangladesh…, the emerging directions are indicative of the seriousness of the industry for resource maximization.
Back in December 2012, the national Resources Defence council published a report on four fabric knitting mills of bangladesh – Delta composite knitting industries, libas textiles, niagara textile and sinha textile group – highlighting the top water saving practices suitable for the fabric manufacturers of bangladesh. funded by World bank and supported by h&M, levi’s, M&s, Walmart, li & fung and gap, the report was part of nRDc’s Responsible sourcing initiative that focuses on curbing pollution caused by textile mills.
With a new found passion for sustainable practices, the benchmarks set-out in the report acquire greater importance for bangladesh’s apparel and textile industry. similar to nRDc’s Responsible sourcing initiative, programmes such as green project Wst and partnership agreement for cleaner technologies (pact) have further pushed the apparel and textile manufacturers towards implementation of interventions in their factories, based or inspired from the best practices mentioned in nRDc’s report for measurable results. it is also prudent to note that since water is being also used majorly in the form of steam for energy generation; reducing, recycling, reusing and recovering water in a mill can reduce the energy consumption also.
Among the two factories working under the pact programme in bangladesh is the new fabric unit of giant group and the same unit, giant textiles, is also working under green project Wst. “While Wst is only backed by lidl, pact is supported by a lot of brands and the latter focuses on overall efficient utilization of resources instead of just concentrating on water. We are working under pact programme due to our association with zara, as all the nominated suppliers of the brand are included in the programme. We started working under the pact programme just a month ago and our factory has undergone a complete diagnostic programme,” shares Majedur Rahim, Director, Giant Group. With a total area of 250,000 sq. ft., giant textiles has 39 circular knitting machines producing 17 tonnes of fabric per day along with a dyeing capacity of 24 tonnes per day. built with an investment of approximately us $ 19 million, the unit will eventually house 40 sewing lines, of which 10 sewing lines will be added soon along with automatic cutting and spreading equipment.
However, such programmes are not ‘just’ about efficient resource utilization as there is a viable business angle to it also. “Every product made under the Wst project will be retailed by lidl at a us $ 2-3 higher price with a tag highlighting the water and energy savings registered under the project. lidl is optimistic about people buying clothes made in sustainable factories,” says Majedur Rahim. While giant group has to bear the cost of interventions done by the team of green project Wst, lidl is paying Dr. Engel and his team for their consultancy. giant group has received the first order of 175,000 pieces from lidl to be made under the Wst project, which is besides other orders from lidl that are not covered under the Wst programme.
Among the pioneers to take up the cause of water saving is landmark group, being among the first two companies where the green project Wst programme was practiced. “We have been working with green project Wst since 2012, under the guidance of Dr. Engel. At that point of time the idea was not as established as it is today and it was just an idea to help the environment, without any push from international buyers. but once we succeeded, buyers like lidl are now pursuing Wst as their prime requirement to save water consumption of their vendor factories,” shares Dipak Bhowmik, Chairman, Landmark Group, a us $ 60 million knit composite company with backward linkages for accessory manufacturing. henceforth, the consistently rising wages and operating overheads have pushed companies to focus on such aspects, looking at the savings registered in china as claimed by nRDc of 33 mills saving approximately us $ 14.3 million following the best practices defined by their report. “We realized that we need to be more competitive and focused on reducing the overhead costs,” points out M.S. Zaman, Managing Director, Micro Fibre Group, a us $ 100 knit composite company with backward linkages for accessory manufacturing. a textile engineer by qualification, zaman has managed to extensively work on the aspects of water and energy savings in his company without being a part of any programme.
Of the 25 ‘best practices’ defined in the NRDC’s report titled ‘Best Practices for Textile Mills to Save Money and Reduce Pollution in Bangladesh’, published in 2012, it was observed that Delta Composite Knitting Industries followed 8%; Libas Textiles 12%; Niagara Textiles 24%; and Sinha Textile Group 28%. For sure, in the last four years, these companies must have started following more of these ‘best practices’ defined in the report. A relatively new facility, Giant Textiles, is following 80% of the 25 ‘best practices’ mentioned in NRDC’s report.
Dyeing Department – The Epicentre for Water Saving
The dye house has the maximum potential for water saving due to the presence of multiple processes such as de-sizing, scouring, washing and rinsing under one roof. the water used for cooling the dyeing machine can always be recycled as it does not come in contact with the dye bath or the discharge, and is thus not contaminated. “We are successfully reusing this water in various processes such as in de-sizing, scouring, washing or rinsing instead of sending it to the Etp plant. Moreover, this water absorbs the heat of the dye bath through a heat exchanging mechanism and in case of scouring the cooling water is at 95º celsius, in dyeing the same is at 70º celsius and in case of polyester dyeing it is at 130º celsius. We have worked out a process to trap the heat from this hot water and save a lot of energy wasted in re-heating water,” explains zaman. to use the warmed-up cooling water, factories use an insulated hot water reservoir tank to collect and store water and then recycle this warm water either into the fabric dyeing process or in the boiler as feed water. as per nsDc’s calculations, the costs involved in doing the same range from us $ 3,400 and us $ 9,700 and the return on investment is less than four months.
The biggest consumer of water in the fabric dyeing process is the subsequent process of rinsing, due to which the scope of savings is even greater compared to other processes. talking about his intervention in the rinsing process, zaman explains, “the biggest change was in the process of rinsing wherein continuous rinsing would happen, which is total wastage of water as water would be continuously poured into the machine for rinsing the fabric and the same would be discharged to the Etp. now we have developed a system through which the process of rinsing has been converted to a batch process and the machine is first filled with water completely, then rinsed and then the water is drained – it is the equivalent of taking a bath using a bucket instead of a shower.” Efforts are also being made by companies to reduce the number of rinses from 4-6 to 3-4 rinses, depending on colour. “for producing white colour, we just use 40 litres of water per kg of fabric, but for producing a colour such as turkish blue, the water consumption per kg of fabric can go up to 65 litres,” adds zaman and states that such interventions are done at the company’s in-house sampling lab, in coordination with chemical companies and subject experts.
At one of its two upcoming dyeing facilities with a combined capacity of 100 tonnes per day, Micro Fibre Group has plans to create a pond of 84,000 sq. ft. Giant Group’s new facility Giant Textiles has an underground water reservoir with a capacity of 900,000 litres. In the same facility, Giant Group has also maximized the use of daylight by making individual floors with the roof height at an average of 30 feet.
An extension of this intervention is the reuse of water from the 2nd or 3rd rinse batches because while the water from the initial rinses has high dye content, later washes are low in both colour and chemicals. hence instead of discharging this water to the Etp plant, this water can be reused for other processes that do not require high-quality water such as for scouring, wherein the water can be used after simple filtration using a sand or carbon filter. “this is possible by the use of better quality and relatively expensive dye stuff and chemicals with higher affinity to the fabrics due to which not only less rinse batches are required but also the dyeing time has been reduced, resulting in saving 26 litres of water per kg of fabric,” asserts Dipak bhowmik.
Reducing liquor ratios of dyeing machines is the most talked about aspect of water saving as the lower the ratio, the less the water used to produce the coloured fabric; also lower the chemical usage, less is the effluent treatment needs. Most of the dyeing machines operating in the country have a liquor ratio of 1:8 but some companies have achieved liquor ratio as low as 1:3.5, as in the case of giant group. Micro fibre group and landmark group are working on 1:6 liquor ratio. but surprisingly, relatively less water savings were possible because of reducing the liquor ratio of the dyeing machines, in comparison to the above mentioned interventions. states zaman, “usually the dyeing machine manufacturers sell machine boasting their liquor ratio but it is not that important as per my experience. the difference in 1:4 and 1:8 liquor ratios in terms of the saving is of just 4 litres per wash, which is very small compared to the savings registered through conversion of continuous washing process to batch watching.”
Highlighting the need of measurement for saving of resources, Majedur Rahim adds, “We are using a dye-house monitoring software solution called orgatex, which is an online process control system for dye house management. i can remotely monitor from my phone and know that which dyeing unit is doing what.” complete dyeing production scheduling and controlling software, orgatex can provide valuable information to manager in the areas of machine downtime, time taken per batch, water consumption per batch, machine utilization, costs per kg of fabric and target vs. actual production. Due to such real time reporting, output of the dye house can be increased by 30%.
“While WST is only backed by Lidl, PACT is supported by a lot of brands and the latter focuses on overall efficient utilization of resources instead of just water. We are working under PACT programme due to our association with Zara.” – Majedur Rahim, Director, Giant Group
More Key Practices – Rain Water Harvesting, using Daylight
Receiving an average rainfall of 1,853 mm annually, Dhaka presents ample opportunity to manufacturers for rain water harvesting. having realized the same, both giant group and Micro fibre group have invested in construction of water reservoirs for storing the rain water during monsoon and are not using the groundwater during monsoons. at one of its two upcoming dyeing facilities with a combined capacity of 100 tonnes per day, Micro fibre group has plans to create a pond of 84,000 sq. feet. giant group’s new facility giant textiles has an underground water reservoir with a capacity of 900,000 litres. in the same facility giant group has also maximized the use of daylight by making individual floors with the roof height at an average of 30 feet. “it is a pre-fabricated building and to put in the glass we had to do a lot of civil construction,” explains Majedur Rahim. the glass panel put in place is double coated that prevents the heat from coming inside without restricting the inlet of sunlight.
“Savings are possible by the use of better quality dye stuff and chemicals with higher affinity to the fabrics due to which not only less rinse batches are required but also the dyeing time has been reduced, resulting in saving 26 litres of water per kg of fabric.” – Dipak Bhowmik, Chairman, Landmark Group
Improvements and Beyond
As a part of green project Wst, landmark group claims to be saving around 26 litres of water in dyeing per kg of fabric and with a dyeing capacity of around 25 tonnes a day, which means the company is saving 650,000 litres of water every day. “along with saving water, we have also seen an improvement in the fabric quality because of the use of better quality dyes, chemicals and yarns,” adds Dipak bhowmik. similar are the savings registered by Micro fibre group, that claims to be using just 50 litres of water on an average for producing 1 kg of fabric, which is equivalent to half the amount of water used by the industry on an average, for producing the same amount of fabric. “there are nearly 40,000 circular knitting machines running in the country, and if you ask me, the knitting configuration being followed in the country is wrong,” says zaman of Micro fibre group. he shares that most bangladeshi companies are using 24 gauge knitting machines that are not correct for the kind of apparels being produced, rather 28, 30 and 32 gauge knitting machines are much more suitable for the requirements. the reasons being that the fabric will be more compact, the spirality would be better and since the fabric is in finer gauge there is no need of compactors to shrink the fabric. “i don’t know who has suggested 24 gauge knitting machines for bangladesh, but everyone is following the standard,” adds zaman, who urges every textile mill owner to focus on the science of textile engineering before making investments.
Giant group is yet to witness concrete improvements because the company’s first textile facility is a new construction, erected in 2013 and has been working under the green project Wst programme for only the past 6 months. “to achieve the kind of savings mentioned by Wst team, one has to invest in the use of high-end chemicals and dye stuff which increases the operating costs for the time being. but one benefit is for certain; since the liquor ratio of the machines used by us is low, we can make 30 tonnes of fabrics per day without increasing the capacity of the Etp from 100 cubic metre per hour,” concludes Majedur Rahim.