SAVING BLUE WATER
Water is the essence of life. Our civilization and the ecology at large are dependent on water as much as we depend on air. Bluewater – freshwater drawn from below ground and surface (rivers and lakes) are what humans use along with plants and animals.
The apparel industry is a large user of water globally – some estimate this to be as high as 79 billion cubic meters of water per year, representing about 10% of global water use. As water stress intensifies globally, enhanced by climate change, the industry must integrate water stewardship as a core functional requirement within its plans.
Water stress is high in Bangladesh where a large part of our manufacturing happens, and our industrial laundries. Bangladesh with its sandy clay soil makes it difficult for surface water to replenish the deep aquifers, and the countries reliance on groundwater has seen a gradual reduction of the water in the aquifers.
At Epic, we have placed blue water reduction centrally in our sustainability strategy. We plan to reduce our freshwater intensity by 40% by 2023 against our 2017 baseline and to continue the reduction further in the following years.
The Bluewater reduction strategy has two segments
The first is to reduce the demand. We are continuously assessing and refining our wash recipes to reduce the water required in our laundries, leveraging industry best practices and knowledge. We are investing in technology and upgrade our machinery to reduce water consumption.
We have invested in Ozone and Laser machines for denim wash/finishing reducing water use. We have introduced low- liquor ratio Yilmak Rainforest machines which have halved our water use compared to traditional front loaders. We have also introduced nano-bubble spray technology to reduce water even further.
Investing in low-flow fixtures, dual flush toilets, and push taps reduces water use by our staff in the factories.
The second is to shift away from blue water. We are currently investing USD 3 Million to upgrade our Effluent Treatment Plants in our three laundries in Bangladesh with Membrane Bio-Reactor (MBR) technology which will enable us to reuse up to 50% of the water after treatment. These ETPs treat the discharge water to meet ZDHC aspirational parameters.
Treated water will be used back in the laundry as well as for toilet flushing and other utility-related uses. We have also installed rainwater harvesting systems in our GTL and EGMCL factories to reduce our blue water use.
In Ethiopia, we operate in Hawassa Industrial Zone which is a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) facility where all water used is treated and reused back again in a closed-loop process.
While we have significant commitments and investments, our work is not finished by any means. We aspire to be better at water stewardship as a continuous commitment to the planet and its ecology.