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Going green with the shirt on my back…

One of the in-thing in chemical industries is to go in for Green Chemistry. All chemical factories worth its salt will be looking at factory effluent treatment, waste water treatment, electrostatic capacitors to clean the exhaust from the chimney, catalyst recovery and more. All this because the environment has to be protected and watching emission in any form is a must.

Green Chemistry is a bit different. The term green chemistry was coined by Paul Anastas in 1991. There are a dozen principles which govern the practice of green chemistry. The important one is to reinvent the chemical processes that ultimately produce less waste, less heat and less unwanted by products. The objective is to resort to that chemical equation that involves lesser constituent chemicals that are needed to produce the end product. In the 1960s ibuprofen was produced using a six stage process and of all the atoms used in the process, nearly 60 percent were wasted. A new process which improved the atom economy to 77-99 percent was developed thereby producing less waste, a saving of three steps and consequently cheaper ibuprofen.

This morning I had an occasion to try out a new shirt and on extracting the shirt from the plastic wrap it came in, I found apart from the shirt there were the following items.

  1. Plastic cover
  2. Cardboard back stiffener
  3. Plastic neck stiffener
  4. Plastic Bow
  5. Cardboard neck liner
  6. Plastic clips – quantity three
  7. Pins – quantity two

A total of ten items!  Not only I had to make sure that no more pins were hiding among folds, but also make sure that the items were reasonable crushed to be easily accommodated in the dustbin. I have also experienced certain brands of shirts have as many as six pins.

A country like Bangladesh exported shirts worth 1733 million USD, as per figures of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association, in the year 2011-12.  Assuming an average of, say, 10 USD per shirt, we are talking about approximately 170 million shirts. Now that is only from Bangladesh!

If we were to adopt an equivalent of green chemistry in the garment manufacturing process, we could possible do away with all the plastic clips and pins, assuming there is no way we can reduce the other items. Now that means the number of items additionally added reduces from ten to five.

Can’t the importers of the shirts, change the specifications of packaging to be friendlier and make an attempt to do away with this waste? Can’t the shirt manufacturers innovate to reduce the waste and get the customer to agree?




6 thoughts on “Going green with the shirt on my back…

  1. While I would agree on the amount of waste, the mindset is to buy a shirt that has a stiff crisp look and not one that comes with a crushed collar (after journeying half way across globe). Probably, the shirts off Fabindia’s shelves are an exception but then all can’t afford Fabindia. The alternative would be cardboard, then what about the cutting of trees and the chemicals that go to treat cardboard? Thanks to the garment industry’s requirement, somewhere in the world, there are thriving small scale plastic clips/plastic bows/plastic cover manufacturers. Yes, we must reduce but sometimes the alternatives are very few and far fetched.

    Posted by Radha | June 11, 2013, 1:38 pm
  2. Really Interesting….just to add I think the best way to pack a T-Shirt is to roll it. This can further reduce the use of cardboard items, though may increase the packing space by a tiny bit.

    But that apart the practice of Green Chemistry could be adopted in other non-chemical industries & households also, like reducing wastage be it electricity, water, paper etc. After all ours is the only planet to have sustained life and let’s not reduce its life-span, but contribute to its longevity otherwise WALL-E will become a reality.

    Posted by Krisna Pawan | June 11, 2013, 1:46 pm
  3. Hi Easwaran, have you ever thought about the persons who make the pins and cardboard stiffeners for a living? 🙂

    Posted by Selva | June 11, 2013, 9:21 pm
    • Sure, but then that does not lead us to any solution. If it were so then we would never have addressed the hand rickshaws, the folks who removed the night soil from our homes. the outcasts among the outcasts – Bhangi, the folks who went bare naked (well almost) in to the sewer to unclog, the children who were employed as chimney sweepers.

      Somewhere we would have to look at the larger picture. When CD/DVD came in all the tape guys – at least the smaller guys went out of business, and also the camera roll guys who went of business. They are the price we paid for progress. Similarly when a bridge is built over a river, the ferrymen are bound to go out of business. Is it really possible to say no to a bridge?

      Posted by eswarann | June 12, 2013, 11:05 am
  4. I’ve been thinking on shirt waste and hazard (prices)recently. Best approach would be to button up, pinch the shoulders….fold it once with sleeves and fold again half way. No waste created.

    Posted by Arup gupta | June 11, 2013, 11:21 pm
  5. Reblogged this on Green Chemie and commented:
    This is called the holistic approach. It is what we need I think.

    Posted by Anuja Sawant | August 2, 2013, 5:21 pm

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