“Water is currently an essential resource in our processes, principally for dyeing. We know that increasing global demands on water use for domestic and industrial purposes are likely to make this already precious resource scarcer in the future, and we therefore take our responsibilities in this area very seriously. Our approach is to use as little water as we can and to make sure that we then recycle as much of that water as possible. Periodically we assess the water stress level and availability for each of our plants, and this informs our investment strategy. We recognise that this is a shared resource and that we must ensure that our use does not lead to shortages for others.
Our long-term vision is to largely eliminate water from our processes, and we are investing in the development of the technologies that look likely to deliver this goal. In the short-term our target for water reduction is very ambitious but we believe it is achievable through the concerted work of our process engineers across the globe.”
Water is predominantly used in our dyeing processes. Here it acts as the medium for applying dyes to our yarns or is used for rinsing and washing yarns before and after dyeing. In the form of steam it is also the medium used for heating water used in processing or for applying curing heat in some coating processes.
Our long-term vision is of processes that are waterless, and our investment in 2018 in Twine, a start-up company developing yarn digital dyeing processes that use no water, was partly aimed at helping to deliver that long-term goal. Twine launched their first generation of sampling machines in June 2019, to much industry interest, and we look forward to working with them on the development and implementation of their technology in the coming years.
In the meantime, our goal is to continue to reduce our use of water and hence to help safeguard this natural but limited resource. Our goal is to reduce our water usage intensity by 40% by 2022 against our 2018 baseline. This requires a further acceleration in water saving initiatives compared to the 28% saving that we achieved in the six years up to 2018. Up to the end of 2019 we have undertaken detailed water balance studies in 31 of our major plants, accounting for 62% of our total water usage. These studies enable us to map the water into each process in the plant and then determine the opportunities for reducing water usage through process changes.
A number of global and site level projects have been initiated during 2019 as a result of these studies which will impact on water usage in 2020 and beyond. During 2019 our water usage dropped by 2% against 2018, and we are confident that we will see this accelerate in 2020.
40% Reduction in water intensity (litres/kilo) by 2022
Reducing water use requires detailed monitoring of actual consumption at all stages of our operations. The bulk of water use is in our dyeing operations, where it is used as the medium for applying dyes to fibres and for pre- and post-dyeing washing stages, where necessary.
We also use water as the principal source of heating (in the form of steam) in processes that require heat. This includes autoclaving yarn to stabilise it, for dyeing and washing, and for the curing of thread coatings. Water is also used for humidification purposes in spinning and twisting operations (in order to improve the behaviour of the fibres during processing).
Finally, water on our sites is also used for domestic purposes. Identifying opportunities for reducing water consumption starts with a water balance that allows us to track the use of water through all the processes on site. This detailed analysis is best done with multiple metering points in order to get exact volumes at all the key stages. Once we have a detailed water balance then we can see where there is excess consumption and which processes are open to modification in order to reduce water use.
Most chosen solutions can be applied across all of our units that have the same processes, but we also look out for unique opportunities on a site. At the same time as we are looking for ways to reduce the water in use, we are also looking for ways to recycle more water so that we can use it multiple times in our processes and hence reduce even further our need to use fresh water.
A vital resource
Without water we cannot, today, make thread. Water is predominantly used in our dyeing processes. It either acts as the medium for applying the dyes to our yarns or is used for rinsing and washing yarns before and after dyeing. In addition to water use in our dyeing process, we use steam in processing or for applying curing heat in some coating processes.
We recognise the importance of water for our business but also the value of water for the communities in which we operate. In some locations where we operate, water is scarce, and so we have a responsibility to reduce our own consumption and return what we do not need to the environment after suitable treatment. In some cases, this includes recycling the water we extract and reusing it in our manufacturing processes.
Taking a risk-based approach
To identify those water stressed locations, in 2019 we have undertaken an updated water stress analysis using the Aqueduct methodology. Overall, our review indicates that 30% of our water demand is in high or extremely high water stress areas (water stress measures the demand versus the availability in an area). This analysis reinforces the need to ensure that we continue our current strategy of reducing the water we use, recycling as much as we can and returning it to the environment in a state where it can be used by others. With this approach we can help to destress water in these locations. At the moment 70% of our water recycling is in locations with a medium to extremely high water stress, and decisions on future recycling projects will be informed by stress levels.
The Aqueduct methodology also assesses water depletion which can become an issue as that will reduce availability (and hence increase the stress). The analysis indicates that only 2% of our demand is in areas of high depletion.
A small number of our units rely on ground water supply, and we have also assessed the risk of water table decline for these units. One unit, Faridabad in North India, is in an area of high water table decline but this is a unit where we have long been aware of water supply issues and we are already recycling up to 90% of our water in order to minimise our need for fresh water.
We will continue to update our water stress review on a regular basis and reassess the risks if need be.
Reducing our consumption
Our global goal is to reduce our water used per kilogram of thread produced by 40% by 2022 against our 2018 baseline. In 2019, we consumed 7.4 million cubic metres of water, which equates to 90 litres per kilogram of product. This is a 2% reduction compared to 2018 and highlights the ambitious nature of our target. Because of changes in scope in our business (the sale of our North American Crafts business and the incorporation of Gotex and Patrick Yarn Mills), we have restated our 2018 baseline to exclude the former and include the latter, and changed the production basis to finished product to reflect that we have more proportionately more product that is not dyed. Full historical data is shown in the data table at the back of the report.
In 2019, we have undertaken detailed water balance studies at 31 of our major plants, accounting for 62% of our total water usage. This includes detailed assessments at Sevier, Horana, Ambas and Odorhei. We have also delivered five training sessions with colleagues on how to undertake a water balance analysis. These studies are now delivering projects with savings opportunities. To help us accelerate our process we intend to conduct water balance assessments in the rest our sites by the end of 2020. This will enable us to identify areas of improvement and target our resources into those projects that enable the most significant water saving projects.
Of the water we used, over 24% was recycled and reused (up from 20% in 2018). Of the remaining amount required 52% was sourced from the local environment and 48% was supplied from municipal sources.
Utilising new technology
We continually seek to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of our manufacturing sites, especially around our dyeing processes. Technologies such as reverse osmosis improve the quality of water we use, giving us alternatives to using water from municipal supply and/ or helping us achieve a high level of water recovery from process effluent. In addition, some of our sites have implemented Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) systems, whereby the remaining effluent is dried to make for easier disposal of the residue.
Our sites at Ambas and Faridabad, in India, have ZLD systems, which has considerably reduced the water sourced externally as 77% and 74% respectively of the water used has been recycled. Similarly, in Sri Lanka, at our Horana site, 69% of water was recycled in 2019 with only 31% going to effluent.
At Coats Vietnam, we have successfully reduced our water consumption by 42% in the last five years, which is equivalent to 310 million litres saved. This was achieved by using a combination of approaches; including a move away from underground or hidden pipes susceptible to undetected leaks; an investment on modern dye machines which utilise lower liquor volume (around 44% reduction compared to a conventional dye machine); the implementation of a dyehouse cooling water recovery process and through the harvesting and recycling of rainwater.
Eliminating the need for water altogether
Our long-term vision is of dyeing processes that are waterless. To help promote the development of such processes, in 2018, we invested $5 million in Twine, a start-up company developing digital yarn dyeing that uses no water. Twine launched their first generation of sampling machines in June 2019, and have supplied their first operational units to pilot customers.
Digital fabric dyeing has been around for some years and is beginning to supply substantial volumes across the textile supply chain. However the challenges of yarn dyeing are much greater for several reasons. Firstly, the three dimensional nature of yarn (which needs to be dyed on all surfaces), is very different to the large flat surfaces that are the substrate for fabric dyeing. Secondly, the physical scale of a yarn (which typically has a diameter that is well below a millimetre), requires very precise control of the flow of dyes and very accurate application systems.
Finally, getting acceptable productivity, and hence low processing costs, when dyeing single yarns (where it might be necessary to dye 10 or more kilometres of yarn to produce a single kilogramme of yarn requires high running speeds and reliable and automated processes.
Twine have focussed on addressing all these issues, and have made substantial progress. We are planning to undertake running trials with their technology during 2020 so that we can start to plan the implementation across our operations. We expect that as the technology matures it will not only benefit our processing, but will have a significant impact across many other parts of the textile industry. It is also worth noting that, while we are focussed on the water benefits here, digital dyeing will also reduce process energy use significantly and will eliminate the need for many chemicals in the dyeing process.
Reducing water use in traditional dyeing machines
The new generation of dyeing machines are more water efficient than older ones. The intrinsic water efficiency of a machine is measured by the liquor ratio. This is the ratio of water to thread once the machine is filled, and typical older machines will operate at a ratio of 8:1 while more modern machines, can operate at 4.5:1. This is a 44% saving in water for the same output, and is largely achieved by improved design of pumps and pipework. However, while all our new machines are low liquor ratio designs, with almost 2000 dyeing machines in use, we have a lot of older machines that still have years of life in them.
Our team in Bangladesh have been challenging themselves to find ways to achieve lower liquor ratios on old machines without modifying the machines themselves. Through a combination of maximising the thread load, optimising the water level, rationalising flow direction and adjusting the pump speeds they have managed to reduce the liquor ratio from 8:1 to 6.5:1, a 19% reduction in water used. The water saving also impacts on energy use as a lower water volume takes less heat energy to raise it to operating temperatures.
We will be spreading this innovative approach across other dyehouses in 2020.
12018 data has been restated without NA Crafts, with Gotex and Patrick Yarn Mills and with finished goods output basis to help with like for like comparisons to 2019