A textile pre-treatment that contains an enzymatic bleaching agent has the potential to save trillions of litres of water and millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, a life cycle assessment (LCA) has concluded.

Gentle Power Bleach, a bleaching pre-treatment launched last March by Huntsman Textile Effects, contains an enzymatic bleaching agent from industrial biotechnology firm Genencor.

"Although the cotton pre-treatment processing parameters will differ across the globe, we found a substantial advantage for Gentle Power Bleach among each of the many environmental impact categories that we tracked," says Jon Dettling, US director for Quantis International, the organization that performed the LCA.

"For instance, the LCA concludes that if the relative benefits of Gentle Power Bleach were applied to the roughly 26m tons of cotton produced globally [a 2007-2008 statistic], the savings in freshwater consumption globally could be in the range of 10 trillion litres of water annually, which is more than 1000 litres annually for each person on earth.

The result depends on the available information regarding cotton irrigation, but nevertheless illustrates the potential benefits of the technology.

Significant reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions are another benefit claimed, with estimates showing the pre-treatment has the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by 10-30 million metric tonnes annually.

"Both companies see this technology as a critical step towards a more sustainable textile processing industry," adds Paul Hulme, president from Huntsman Textile Effects.