Denim jeans have become a mainstay of wardrobes the world over, but with some estimates suggesting that over 2,500 gallons (9,463 l) of water, almost a pound of chemicals and significant amounts of energy are required to produce just one pair of jeans, their success has a significant impact on the environment. Now a new process developed by Swiss chemical company Clariant promises to turn blue (and other colored) jeans a shade of green.

The company claims its Advanced Denim process, which was recently highlighted at the 16th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, can cut the amount of water used to produce a pair of jeans by up to 92 percent while requiring up to 30 percent less energy than conventional denim manufacturing methods. Additionally, the process is claimed to generate up to 87 percent less cotton waste, which is often burned sending CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and produces virtually no waste-water.

In comparison to conventional denim production methods, which can require up to 15 dyeing vats and the use of an array of potentially harmful chemicals, the Advanced Denim process uses just one dyeing vat and replaces the traditional indigo dyes with a new generation of concentrated, liquid sulfur dyes that provide the same colors but require only a single, sugar-based reducing agent. Aside from the environmental benefits, manufacturers would see a reduction in the number of steps required to produce the denim.

According to Miguel Sanchez, a textile engineer at Clariant, if just a quarter of the world’s jeans were dyed using the Advanced Denim process, around 2.5 billion gallons (9.46 billion liters) of water would be saved every year – enough to cover the needs of 1.7 million people annually. It would also prevent the release of 8.3 million cubic meters of wastewater, and save up to 220 million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Clariant says it has received high levels of interest for its Advanced Denim process from many of the world’s leading jeans manufacturers.

The following video gives an overview of the Advanced Denim process.

Source: ACS, Clariant