Sustainability Journey of Tirupur Apparel Cluster: Series 001- Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) -Water Stewardship

India’s textile industry contributed 7% of the industry output (in value terms) of India in 2017-18. It contributed 2% to the GDP of India and employs more than 45 million people through direct employment and 60 Million in allied sectors. The sector contributed 12-15 percent to the export earnings of India. The growth of Knitted Textile Exports by India has been 135% in last 10 years. Our analysis reveals that Top 5 Export destinations of India are EU 27.9%, USA 26.4%, UAE 13.7%, UK 6.0% and African Countries 3.8%. The Export growth potential of India to the listed top 5 destinations are significant.

The success and sustained growth of Apparel export from India are due to the Early adoption of Compliance and Best Practices by the Manufacturers of India.

Story of Tirupur’s Supply Chain and ZLD:

Currently, the cluster does an export turnover of INR 26,000 Crore and a domestic turnover of INR 20,000 Crores, providing employment to Six Lakh People directly & 2 Lakh people indirectly. The cluster has a vision of 1 Lakh Crore Export. On the whole 50% of Tirupur Knitwear exports, turnover is contributed by 93% of the Factories, a total of 1250 exporting units exist in Tirupur, and catering to the export demand with the Value chain Sub Contractors of more than 18000 Factories of different processes.

One of the Leading Financial Advisor of Tirupur Shri. TR Ramanathan Once said about the Success of Tirupur, “The Apparel factories of Tirupur complement each other instead of Compete”

Tirupur sub-contracts its Processing requirement from Wet process facilities in Tirupur as well as Perundurai SIPCOT. When we say Tirupur as a Cluster, which includes Perundurai SIPCOT as a Supply chain Value partners along with Tirupur process facilities. approximately 30% of the process requirements are catered by SIPCOT and the balance 70% by Tirupur Process facilities.

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The Energy Intensive Spinning, Dyeing & Printing Industries in the apparel value chain have adopted the latest technologies in their production process. The Water Intensive Dyeing Industry has evolved from Open bath Dyeing to Flow Dyeing Since 1985. The Open bath Dyeing in the early days of the Dyeing industry was completely manual and there was no quantification of water or resource use. In the Mid-1980s, Winch Dyeing was introduced to the cluster, Winch was an open and Direct heating method for the process, and the water use MLR (Material to Liquor Ratio) was about 1:18. In the mid-1990s the soft flow dyeing was introduced and widespread adoption of the same was witnessed in Tirupur Cluster because of its reduced Resource use. During that time there were about more than 1000 Dyeing Units catering to the demand of Tirupur’s knitwear market. The Early MLR of soft flow was about 1:10 and later with the demand, the Low Liquor dyeing concept evolved Now the best case of MLR 1:4 has been established in the industry (Softflow).

The present MLR is 1:4 and the number of the dye baths is 11. The number of baths will vary in the case of Polyester and other synthetics. Recently few processing units have started invest in the Cold Pad Batch Technology, in which the energy consumption & water consumption is 50% low than the prevailing soft flow dyeing.

The dyeing process consumes a huge quantity of water. There were about 1000 Plus dyeing industries prior to the ZLD implementation, during those years, the factory uses 100% Fresh water sourced from Borewell as well as from the Water Scheme NTADCL.

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In the year 1997, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has issued the directions to set up Zero Liquid Discharge at all the Dyeing facilities, and in 2006 the High court has directed the dyeing units to implement ZLD and not to discharge the effluent water into the river Noyyal.

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In 2010-2011 Entire Tirupur Textile Dyeing Cluster was closed under the Court order for not implementing ZLD. After the HC directions, the industries have invested in ZLD and adopted Common ETP & Individual ETPs only 760 Dyeing units were commenced their operation out of which 430 units were given consent staged manner.

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Now, all the Dyeing facilities in this Tirupur & SIPCOT Cluster implemented Zero Liquid Discharge and complied with the TNPCB norms.

With the ZLD implementation, the factory requires only to the tune of 10% of fresh water is used and 90% of the water is being reused after the effluent treatment process.

Though the NTADCL intended to supply the Water demand of 125 MLD to the Wet processing industries initially, say before the implementation of Zero Liquid Discharge, Now being ZLD implemented in the cluster, the freshwater demand has reduced to the tune of less than 30 MLD.

More than 100MLD of water treated and reused at the wet process facilities daily. At present Tirupur has 650 Dyeing Units in which 100 are Equipped with Individual Effluent Treatment Plants, remaining factories have been collectively invested on Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP). Tirupur has 18 CETPs to cater the treatment of 550 Units.

The total capacity of these CETP is 97.9 MLD, the TNPCB consented to operate for 63.35 MLD.

Innovations Adopted:

These CETPs have developed and implemented the Treated Brine Reuse technology with Tamil Nadu Water Investment Company Limited to achieve ZLD. After recovering reusable water as permeate from RO and condensate from the evaporator, the remaining is either reused as brine (after treatment and concentration) or recovered as Salts, such as Sodium Chloride, and Glauber Salt / Sodium Sulphate and Re-Used. This Salt recovery has resulted in a reduction of fresh salt purchase for the Dyeing and reduced the cost substantially.

Through the CETP / IETP following technologies have been implemented successfully by the cluster, Biological treatment, Reverse Osmosis, Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR), Multiple Effect Evaporator (MEE), Agitated Thin Film Dryer (ATFD), Adiabatic Chiller for Recovery of Sodium Sulphate.

To support the Establishment of CETPs, Central & State Governments have sanctioned INR 713 Crore from the inception of ZLD implementation to this date.

The dyeing process involves the addition of salts for a better exhaustion rate. Salts dissolved in water have been recovered in the Effluent treatment process. On average 80% of the salts are recovered in the Evaporator. These recovered salts are reused at the dyeing process thus reducing the fresh salt usage. The Facilities which consume the brine solution won’t be able to recover the salt, but most of the IETPs & CETPs recover the Salts and Collect the Mixed Salts at the process. The Mixed Salts are unusable. The quantity of Mixed salt at the Cluster level is approximately 166 Tonnes per Day.

When the Big factories around the World and Mass Manufacturers from China are Polluting the River and struggling to adopt the Sustainability Best Practices in Effluent Water Treatment, On a daily basis the Entire Tirupur Cluster recovers 98% of the Water which is about 10,00,00,000 LPD, the Chemical Sludge through ZLD is 41.6 Tonnes/Day, the Bio Sludge is 27.8 Tonnes/Day, the Recovered Salt is 347.2 Tonnes/day. The Chemical & Bio sludge has been used as Fuel in the Cement plants and demonstrates the Sustainable Circular Model in handling Wastes.

For the Exporters, Is the Tagline, “Tirupur as Sustainable Sourcing Destination” rightly justified through this article? If you feel yes, Brand it and Promote this across your Network and harvest the business and bring the good deals to our cluster. Stay Tuned and Connect with us for more such articles to read.

For the Brands and Fashion Sourcing Partners, Tirupur Apparel exporters are Ideal Partners to work with under the tagline of “Sustainable Circular Fashion Supply Chain“.

-Raman Azhahia Manavalan (CEO-VRNC)

Raman Azhahia Manavalan

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