It takes roughly 100 litres of water to wash a single pair of jeans during the production process. This translates into the denim industry consuming around 18 billion litres of water per year.
With a looming water crisis, this is hardly a sustainable means of production for one of Bangladesh’s major RMG sub-sectors.
Anticipating a water crisis, industry pioneers have introduced laser technology that is able reduce the amount of water that is used.
Managing Director and CEO of Denim Experts Limited Mustafiz Uddin, who pioneered the use of this technology in Bangladesh in 2015, explained that water and chemical use depend on design effects for the garment – vintage, distressed, old.
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Laser machine used to wash denim reducing the amount of water and chemicals used for production COURTESY
“Generally the demand is highest for blue jeans that need about 100 litres of water to get the desired effect on the finished product,” he said.
Laser technology reduces chemical use by up to 30%, which in turn decreases the amount of water required. The technology is currently being used in half a dozen leading denim factories in Bangladesh alongside the regular chemical-based washing process.
Increasingly environmentally-conscious consumers and buyers are opting for products that have a smaller carbon footprint.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, former president of Bangladesh Garments Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) told the Dhaka Tribune that this is exactly why manufactures are shifting to laser washing: it makes sense for the consumer, producer and the environment.
Describing the use of lasers as “revolutionary” for the industry, Mustafiz said he hoped industry-wide adoption would minimise the use of chemicals and water.
He said he believed the technology would also cut time and costs. He said the use of laser does not impact the quality or lessen the effects of washes but increases the rate of production.
“Along with lower water consumption, this technology also minimises the risk of health hazards of employees who work with denim washing chemicals” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Denim is a major part of Bangladesh’s ready-made garments (RMG) industry. According to Bangladesh Denim Expo, some 400 factories annually export 180 million pieces of denim jeans from Bangladesh to over 120 countries.
The industry in Bangladesh presently has 26 denim fabric manufacturers with a total investment of over $900 million.
Today, World Water Day, the thematic highlight is awareness about wasting water.
Industrial water consumption accounts for 22% of global water use, but Bangladesh does not have concrete data on water waste.
Raisul Alam Mondal, director general of the Department of Environment, welcomed the introduction of the water-saving technology, saying: “The introduction of such efficient technology in the industrial sector will help build the country towards a more sustainable development.”