The fashion industry is known for its disastrous impact on the environment in recent times. In fact, it is considered as the second-largest polluter in the world after the oil industry. A major resource that suffers because of this is water.
The fashion industry uses up a large amount of water and also contaminates a huge amount of it. The dyes used by the fashion industry is the cause of 20% of total industrial water pollution. The wastewater generated by dyehouses, even after its treatment is responsible for a significant amount of carbon emissions and pollution. A typical dyehouse generates one to three tonnes of sludge per day from wastewater treatment, costing over $200,000 annually for its disposal and generating over 5,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year.
In order to look for new solutions and reduce the environmental impact of the wastewater treatment, Fashion for Good, a global initiative that is here to make all fashion good, in partnership with Arvind Limited, BESTSELLER, C&A and PVH Corp., provided business support, development funding and expertise to a pilot project, that involves the adoption of a new and improved wastewater treatment system to assess the feasibility of the solution.
The game-changing wastewater treatment system developed by Scaling Programme start-up SeaChange Technologies was evaluated at the Treatment Plant of Arvind Limited near Gujarat, India. The SeaChange system was implemented over a period of three months to test the feasibility of widescale implementation of the system.
SeaChange Technologies’ Wastewater Treatment System
A conventional wastewater treatment process consists of multiple steps. The wastewater gets cleaned in each step before moving to the next one. SeaChange’s technology is able to plug into several existing points of the conventional system.
The pilot provided an opportunity to test SeaChange’s technology in multiple different waste streams. The waste streams tested included sludge, dyeing concentrates and combined effluent, Reverse Osmosis reject and Mother Liquor. All waste streams were successfully treated by the SeaChange system and reduced to minerals in a single pass, demonstrating the technical viability of the technology to process wastewater. Sludge was selected as the most viable application for SeaChange, given its hefty environmental impact and cost of disposal.
The company has developed an innovative mechanical system where wastewater or sludge is heated, pressurised and injected as an aerosol into a cyclonic separator. This single-step process uses the cyclonic separation technique to draw out unwanted materials, microplastics and other non-biodegradable components from the water itself. Due to the heat and presence of oxygen in the air, these organic compounds then undergo thermal oxidisation causing them to degrade to CO2.
This is done by generating near-critical water conditions, where about 5-10% of the water mass becomes ionised. When water ionises, it creates free radicals that can destroy most organic material. By using heat from the organic oxidation process, energy use in maintaining this near-critical environment is incredibly efficient, using only about 60% of what would otherwise be required for water vapourisation. The process enables treatment of wastewater while eliminating the production of sludge and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions; the CO2 generated is just a small fraction of the greenhouse gasses generated by conventional processes.
Fashion For Good’s initiative may bring about a breakthrough that is needed to clean up the supply chain of the Fashion industry. With support from brands such as Adidas, C&A, CHANEL, BESTSELLER among others, sustainable fashion can soon become not just a rarity but a norm.