Chemical and Water Use

7. The 606 gallons of water used to make the fabric was treated before we released it back into the local eco‐system – so the 33 pounds of (often toxic) chemicals used to make the fabric were not released into our groundwater.

Published estimates of the amount of water required to produce fabric ranges from huge to gigantic. We have decided to use the figure of 20 gallons of water to produce one KG of upholstery weight fabric, an estimate which (as compared to other published data, see table below) is on the very low side. Because the total weight of our sofa fabric is 30.3 KG, total gallons used are 606. The fact that the textile industry uses gargantuan amounts of water and is the #1 or #2 industrial user (and polluter) of clean water on the planet is not in dispute.

Source
Calculations
WATER USE
Gals/Sofa
Water Footprint Network: “The global average water footprint of cotton fabric is 10,000 litre per kilogram.”http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/home
10,000 litres = 2641 gallons; Total weight of fabric is 30.32 KG, so 30.32*2641=
80,075
Wall Street Journal : it takes 505 gallons of water to produce 1 pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.Alter, Alexandra, “Yet Another Footprint to worry about:Water”, Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2009
Assuming 1 pair of Levi’s weighs 1.5 lbs, our sofa fabric uses (66.8/1.5) *505 =
22,489
“Water Footprint of cotton Consumption”: 4443
M3/ton is the global average for cotton fabric
production.Chapagain, A.K., et al, September 2005, Value of WaterResearch Report Series No. 18, UNESCO
66.8 lbs of fabric is 0.0334 of a
ton (2000 lbs), so 0.0334*4443
= 148.39 m3 =
18,568

In the case of the chemicals used to produce the fabric:
It can take anywhere from 10% to 100% of the weight of the fabric in chemicals to produce the fabric1. The great variation is due to the many steps in producing a fabric: fiber preparation, spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing and finishing (And these are just the major categories.); plus the many and varied chemicals required in a given step depending on the fiber type used and the performance attributes required. Each one of these steps requires its own set of chemicals in order
to accomplish its function, and then those chemicals must be washed out (using detergents, degreasers, surfactants, foaming agents, etc.) in order not to interfere with the chemicals used in the subsequent steps. The range and quantity of chemicals employed varies greatly by many different variables, so we chose to assume the quantity of chemicals in our example sofa to be 50%
of the weight of the fabric.

Fabric used in sofa:

Total WT

in LBS

Total Wt.

in KG

50% of Total

Wt. in LBS

25 yds decorative fabric, 22 oz/linear yd
34.00
15.42
17
20 yds lining fabric, 15 oz/linear yd
19.00
8.60
9.5
15 yds burlap, 10 oz/linear yd
9.40
4.30
4.7
10 yds muslin, 7 oz/linear yd
4.40
2.00
2.2
TOTAL
66.8
30.32
33.4

The German Environmental Protection Agency found that a finished textile is, by weight, approximately 23% residual chemicals.2 Adding the vast number of chemicals used during processing which do not remain in the fabrics (such as detergents, solvents, complexing agents, fixing agents, wetting agents), choosing 50% is conservative. This also corresponds with our
own experience.

Many of these chemicals remain in your fabric for you to bring into your home.

Composition of a textile which is labeled 100% cotton
percentageof finishedfabric:
Total,aspercent
COTTON FIBERS
77%
77%
CHEMICALS examples:
23%
elasthan
2%
dyestuff 1,2,4 trimethylbenzene
4%
resin for shrink‐resistance urea formaldehyde
10%
softening agent, optical brightener, etc. acrylic polymers, distyryl biphenyl derivatives
2%
reinforcement, lifts, etc.
5%

Source: Lacasse, K and Baumann, W, Textile Chemicals: Environmental Data and Facts, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2004

1 Data extracted from a number of studies:

    • Working Report No. 10,2002 from the Danish EPA, “ Best Available Techniques (BAT) in the
      clothing and textile industry”, document prepared for the European IPPC Bureau and the TWG Textile.
    • Schindler, W.D and Hauser, P.J., Chemical Finishing of Textiles, Woodhead Publishing, 2004
    • Environmental Hazards of the Textile Industry, Hazardous Substances Research Centers, South and Southwest Outreach Program, (US EPA funded consortium) June 2006
    • “Process Analysis of Textile Manufacturing” – Environmental Impacts of Textile Manufacturing, Moustafa S. Moussa, UNESCO – IHE, Delft, The Netherlands
    • Profile of the Textiles Industry, US EPA,
      http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/publications/assistance/sectors/notebooks/textiles.html

2 Lacasse, K and Baumann, W, Textile Chemicals: Environmental Data and Facts, Springer‐Verlag,
Berlin, 2004