More than 30 Chinese textile mills, many of which create clothing for major high-volume apparel brands and retailers including Target, Gap, Levi’s and H&M, are saving $14.7 million annually by adopting efficiency measures in their production processes, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The 33 mills are part of NRDC’s Clean By Design program, a global model for manufacturing sustainability that is working with major fashion retailers and designers.
Textile manufacturing, particularly the dyeing and finishing of fabric, swallows up to 250 tons of water for every 10,000 meters of fabric produced and consumes 110 million tons of coal every year. The textile industry ranks as the third largest discharger of wastewater and the second largest user of chemicals in the country as well, NRDC says.
In the new report, The Textile Industry Leaps forward with Clean by Design: Bigger Profits Through Less Environmental Impact, NRDC identifies more than 200 improvement projects grounded in the program’s Ten Best Practices and undertaken in 2014 by 33 textile mills in Shaoxing and the Guangzhou area in China, two of the world’s textile manufacturing hot spots with the highest concentration of mills.
The report says Clean By Design 2014 delivered:
- Saving up to 36 percent of water use and 3 million tons of water, with an average 9 percent water savings at each mill and each of the top five mills reducing water consumption by more than 20 percent.
- Saving up to 22 percent of energy use and reducing the use of 61,000 tons of coal, which is mainly used to fire the boilers and make steam, with an average 6 percent energy reduction at each mill and each of the top five mills reducing energy use by 10 percent or more.
- Reducing the use of 36 million kWh of electricity, with an average 4.2 percent electricity reduction and each of the top five mills reducing electricity by more than 6.5 percent.
- Reducing the use of at least 400 tons of chemicals, mostly dyes.
- Financial savings totaling $14.7 million dollars in operating costs to participating mills with a payback time of only 14 months. The annual return per mill averaged $440,000, with the top five performing mills saving more than $800,000.
This year, NRDC says Clean By Design will further expand, moving next to the greater Suzhou area, in Jiangsu Province, another Chinese city with a high concentration of textile mills. It will also align with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which represents more than 40 percent of global apparel production.