Sustainable Innovations in
Textile Production

Textile companies can safeguard resources by incorporating non-polluting methods of production to cut down their carbon footprint.

By Mohsin Iqbal | February 2023

The textile industry is one of the biggest global industries with a significant impact on both the economy and the environment. Textile exports play a huge role in lifting the country’s trade cycle by dominating the global manufacturing market. Pakistan is the 8th largest exporter of textile products in Asia. The textile sector covers nearly 60% of the country’s exports. It is home to almost 400 textile industries, where several commodities including home textiles, carpets, and apparel are manufactured in bulk to be transported to various parts of the world.

However, for a country ranking 4th in cotton production, Pakistan faces an alarming decline in the growth and yield of cotton due to irreversible damage caused by climate change. Pakistan’s agricultural sector took a devastating toll after the incessant floods in 2022 nearly destroyed 40% of the country’s cotton crop. Failing to meet the market’s requirements, further restrictions on cotton import have affected the textile industry even more. What was once considered to be the backbone of the country’s economy is now crumbling at the hands of the outrageous waste of natural resources.

Moreover, with the advent of fast fashion, a huge chunk of recyclable textile waste is being disposed of in landfills, furthering the negative impacts on the environment. Understanding the need to ditch environmentally taxing methods of production, Ume Kulsum Ali Akber, a student at Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture in Karachi, proposed a thesis revolving around pre-consumer industrial waste. Ume Kulsum’s research substantially centres on reducing ecological degradation that is acutely inflamed by the fast-fashion business paradigm. The young textile designer personally visited numerous factories to extensively investigate the magnitude of pollution caused by unused, discarded fabric scraps.

She penned down in her thesis that almost 7% of waste is generated from the production of woven cloth and nearly 10% is wasted from materials sent forward for dyeing and stitching purposes. Moreover, the textile designer also discovered that factories religiously follow the method of categorization to separate high and low-quality products into three different categories. The unused, defective scraps are then either tossed out by the factories or handed over to labourers to weave a rug out of them.

Ume firmly believes that companies can safeguard resources by incorporating non-polluting methods of production to cut down their carbon footprint. All these waste materials can be recycled or repurposed to reduce the need for virgin materials, thereby eliminating the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. To support her thesis, she depicted her environment-friendly vision in the form of absolutely stunning and aesthetically pleasing ‘Dhurries’ made solely out of these forsaken scraps. The young environmentalist sought her inspiration from distinctively textured stones to weave her thesis around the concept of recycling.

Stumbling upon the inane amount of kaleidoscopic scraps, Ume utilized these vibrant waste products without actually having to dye at least 90% of the dumped material. Furthermore, the usage of recycled materials even for the warp and weft on the handloom only adds great credibility to the sustainability of these products. On top of that, the needles for the handloom were abandoned for longer thread loops to make the process effectively swift for the labourers.

Apart from taking advantage of vivid, multi-coloured scraps from industries, Ume cleverly examined the usage of jersey fabric for her hand-woven rugs. Her notion behind this approach is that being more closely knitted, jersey rarely sheds threads making it a more durable material choice for rugs in the long run. Ume’s resulting pieces were exceptionally spectacular. Each dhurrie sample stood unparalleled with its chromatically rich and distinctively intricate patterns that promptly appealed to the eyes. The extensive sampling and integration of coral textured weaving to create an eco-friendly product led to her winning the most auspicious New & Next University Competition.

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