Case Study

Prosperity Textiles in China uses Higg Co to overhaul water recycling program with chemical management, wastewater, and water use projects.

Products used

Higg Facility Environmental Module

Problem

As a leading denim dyer and finisher in China, Prosperity Textiles sees a lot of water use. Denim is a historically water-intensive process, and with global rise in denim demand and an increased desire to be sustainable, Prosperity knew they needed something to help them measure their chemical and wastewater output to get impact improvement plans in place.

Products used

Higg Facility Environmental Module

Solution

Prosperity used Higg Co to manage and monitor their water recycling programs, to ensure more sustainable ways to produce the high-demand, and typically high-waste, product.

17%

Less water use in 6 months

1,100 tons

Less tons caustic soda use per year

500 tons

less sulfuric acid per year

The Story

Prosperity Textiles, a Sustainable Apparel Coalition manufacturer member, operates a large facility in Shaoguan, China which specializes in denim dyeing and finishing.

“Sustainability is a must-have, or even a do-or-die scenario. Not marketing, not PR, not propaganda, and not for the future. It is now,” said Andy Zhong, Marketing Director at Prosperity Textiles.

In order to get in line with sustainability standards, Prosperity used Higg Co to measure and improve their water recycling plans. For the past four years, the company has used the Higg Facility environmental Module (Higg FEM) to monitor progress across seven critical environmental impact areas, including reducing water use through a water recycling program.

Zhong reports that Prosperity Textiles used Higg FEM to manage its wastewater projects, which determined that critical metrics were significantly better at their facility than Chinese national standards.

“The Higg Index is focusing on getting the metrics right,” says Zhong. “Without measurement, there is no improvement. First things first, we must be able to tell how we are doing and where we stand.”
– Andy Zhong, Marketing Director at Prosperity Textiles

Evaluating and sharing progress is especially useful when individual projects improve multiple environmental impact areas. The Higg FEM allows customers to see performance results across many impact areas within a single platform — Higg.org. Over the past few years, Prosperity Textiles has implemented projects in chemicals, wastewater, and water use with improvements across various impact areas.

Managing Chemicals in Color

In 2017, the Prosperity Textiles facility in Shaoguan implemented a new, centralized system for dye preparation and transportation. Engineers enter dye formulas into a computer and dyes are automatically weighed, mixed and delivered. Zhong likens the process to a kitchen: “If you can’t mix the right amount of salt and pepper every time, you won’t always be lucky enough to get a taste you like.”

Zhong sees chemicals management as one of the more challenging environmental impact areas. “There are many chemicals used in denim fabric production, and unlike water, [they are difficult] to recycle, or to find more sustainable alternatives for, in terms of cost and scale,” he said.

With this new dye system, the facility in Shaoguan can measure and compare chemical use in the development of various indigo formulas. This led to improved quality control and a reduction in fabric waste previously caused by human error.

In the first half of 2018, a self- assessment indicated that Prosperity Textiles was able to use 6.5 percent less indigo dye while achieving eight percent higher color accuracy.The reduction of error also resulted in 17 percent less water use.

The company is focused on setting a chemical baseline with the system and will be able to compare its 2017 performance with 2018 results. The comparison allows them to understand the quantity of chemicals that can be saved with the system, reducing environmental impact, and creating financial savings.

Zhong also points out that the automation means the company will be able to implement similar procedures to a new facility that does not have the benefit of employees with long institutional knowledge.

Reusing caustic soda

With the support of a third-party provider, Prosperity Textiles facility recently implemented a caustic soda recycling program. The manufacturer uses high concentrations of caustic soda during mercerization, a process that alters fabric characteristics, allowing the fiber to absorb more water and dye and to increase its strength and luster. The recovery process collects, filters, and re-concentrates the caustic waste, allowing the facility to reuse the chemical.

Prosperity Textiles reports the system has reduced caustic soda use by 1,100 tons and sulfuric acid by 500 tons per year. By using less caustic soda to manufacture jeans, Prosperity Textiles has reduced the pH in its wastewater, requiring less sulfuric acid to treat wastewater, and reducing wastewater discharge — all environmental benefits.

Water Reduction in a High-Risk Region

Reduced water use and water recycling is also a major role in Prosperity’s goal for more sustainable denim manufacturing.

The Higg FEM assesses the individual needs and specific environmental impacts of facilities around the world. For example, facilities that are heavy water users, or that are located in high-water risk areas, must respond to more rigorous water management questions.

In 2014, the Prosperity Textiles team installed a recycling device designed to collect the condensation of water accumulated on dryers during finishing processes. Prior to the installation, 240 tons of water heated to 98 degrees Celsius per day were released for wastewater treatment. The recycling project diverted this water for reuse in production and reheating the boiler. The facility’s self-assessment shows it now saves nearly 80 thousand tons of water and 1,500 tons of coal per year. It has also reduced its wastewater output.

Using Higg Co to Monitor Multiple Efforts

Over the next three years, Prosperity Textiles will be able to determine the impacts of its chemicals automation system on waste, the caustic soda recycling system on wastewater, and the hot water recycling impacts on energy. With the Higg FEM, the company can monitor the effects of each project’s primary impact area as well as its overlapping impacts.

“The Higg Index is helping us to identify the exact saving results of our impacts,” Zhong said. “By using the Higg Index, and with more peers joining forces, we can do better benchmarking to keep improving continuously.”

How to Get Buy-in: Clear Business Value

When pursuing a new project, the sustainability and facility teams at Prosperity Textiles create a plan to assess the return on investment they can expect. Then, they set up a trial run. First, they run a small test, collect data, and compare savings for both financial and environmental impact. “Nothing beats the actual savings, environmentally and financially, when you are promoting the project to senior leadership,” Zhong says.

To make sustainability more relatable and manageable, Zhong recommends that companies think of sustainability as a long-term investment. There may be short-term gains and losses. But the real difference will be seen in the long run. While getting started, Zhong encourages Higg Index customers to implement projects at their own facilities in partnership with key customers or supply chain partners. Being able to identify a supply chain partner that will support sustainability initiatives can help projects gain traction internally.

“The Higg Index tools have enabled us to take the first thorough assessment of our sustainable performance,” Zhong said. “We integrated Higg FEM into our sustainability management. We use our Higg FEM score as a check list to keep our sustainable practices in check. The more years you use the Higg Index, the better you know your “green” path is clear and that you can continue to follow it.”

We look forward to seeing how Prosperity improves with time.

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