Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are well positioned to serve niche Markets and can react flexibly to changing styles in fashion. However, though they play a central role in Europe’s textile-finishing industry, they lag behind in their environmental performance. For instance, over 70% of Spanish enterprises have no waste-reduction plan or management system.
The situation results principally from SMEs’ limited capacity for investing in the research and development of new, environmentally friendly technologies. It is also due to a resistance to change caused by a lack of awareness of the benefits of existing technologies and practices.
In line with EU Directive 96/61/EC on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), the project aimed to contribute to a reduction in the quantity ofwaste generated by the textile sector. It would develop and demonstrate an efficient and effective waste management procedure that would be applicable to all textile sub-sectors. Best available techniques (BATs) would be assessed for applicability to the SME textile sector and introduced on a pilot scale.
The RESITEX project worked to identify and validate a catalogue of specific ways in whichwaste can be managed and reduced in the textile-finishing sector. Information gathered was classified and used to compile and produce a document “Procedure for Waste Management in the Textile Sector” as a reference point providing practical and specific advice on reducing waste and saving costs.
Advice in the guide is divided into four categories: 1. Good management practices – including advice on training, use of chemicals and colour management, for example highlighting water savings to be made by moving from light to dark colours during a production cycle. 2. Selection and substitution of chemicals – for instance replacing toxic surfactants with bio-degradable ones, or usinganti-foaming agents free from mineral oils. 3. Minimisation of resources and recycling opportunities – such as recovery and reuse of printing pastes or rinsing water, and use of biological sludge on agricultural land. 4. Equipment and new technologies – highlighting such areas as digital printing, automated chemical dispensing, and ozone systems for wastewater colour removal.
The identification and dissemination of these best practices will enable Europe’s small and medium textile enterprises to reduce their waste. This in turn should help them comply with growing environmental requirements while keeping costs down. This will be increasingly important as the sector faces greater competition from producers in China and India.
Furthermore, whilst the RESITEX project focused on the textile-finishing sector, its results are applicable to the whole industry including spinning, weaving and clothing. They are also transferable across Europe, although solutions will not always be the same in the northern countries where water is usually plentiful and the Mediterranean countries where lower volumes of wastewater lead to greater concentration of pollutants.
The beneficiary’s successes were recognized in 2008, when RESITEX received a Regional Government award as Best European Project of the Valencian Community.