The idea of a low-carbon economy has become this year's hottest topic worldwide despite the disappointing results of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December. As one of the heaviest-polluting industries in China, the textile industry has a special responsibility to reduce carbon emissions.
"To some extent, raising productivity means reducing carbon emissions at the same time," Wang Ronghua, Vice-Manager of Federation Sanhe Textile Co. Ltd., told Beijing Review. "In the past decade, the competition in China's textile market has become intense; meanwhile, by increasing investment in technology and optimizing the production structure, the competitiveness of the textile industry in China has been enhanced as well. Even though we hesitated at first due to the high cost of energy conservation and emissions reduction technologies, we still decided to use them, which in hindsight was definitely a wise choice."
Federation Sanhe Textile Co. Ltd., established in 1997 and located in the city of Shishi in southeast China's Fujian Province, is an integrated company in researching, producing and trading high-grade casual garments and fabrics.
In August 2008, for the project of garment dyeing, the company introduced 22 international top-grade dyeing machines capable of finishing 8 million pieces per year, while at the same time continuing to research and upgrade new techniques for low-carbon production.
"The new equipment lasts about eight to 10 years, and the unit price is around 1.8 million yuan (about $264,000), which is 20 times the price of ordinary equipment made in China," Wang said. "But the investment is worth it in the long run, as each new piece of equipment saves up to 590,000 yuan (about $86,510) in annual operating costs."
The major advantage of the new equipment, according to Wang, is the low liquor ratio, the weight of goods processed versus the weight of the dye solution.
Wang said the new equipment reduces emissions and saves energy because its liquor ratio is only one fourth that of an ordinary machine, saving 30,000 tons of water (the equivalent of 318 tons of steam coal) per year. Moreover, it saves 90,000 yuan (about $13,196) in annual sewage treatment costs.
The equipment also enhances productivity due to its high level of automation and its high-temperature dyeing. Since all the procedures are computer-operated, the color difference between dyes has been reduced to the minimum, ensuring consistent color between different bolts of pure cotton knitted fabric.
"The production process is complicated because it contains about 200 procedures. But with the help of the highly-automated new equipment, all procedures take place smoothly, greatly reducing the product repair rate," Wang noted.
"Generally speaking, the repair rate is 15 to 20 percent with the ordinary equipment, but it is less than 1 percent with the new equipment, which means 10 to 15 percent in energy savings and greater carbon emissions reduction," Wang continued.
Statistics released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences show that the energy consumption, water consumption and wastewater discharge of the textile industry account for 4.4 percent, 8.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the total for all industries in China. The printing and dyeing industry and the polyester industry, which consume the most energy and produce the highest carbon emissions within the broader textile industry, together discharge over 2.6 billion tons of wastewater per year.
In mid-December 2009, Federation Sanhe Textile Co. Ltd. received the Contribution Award for National Textile Product Development from China Textile Information Center and China Textiles Development Center.
"Saving energy and reducing emissions is very important not only for China but also for the world," Wang said. "Together with many other enterprises, we will actively answer the call made by Premier Wen Jiabao at the Copenhagen Summit to contribute to the development of a low-carbon economy."
Beijing Review is profiling several companies as part of a yearlong series on corporate and individual efforts to promote a low-carbon lifestyle