Hong Kong-based textile and apparel giant Esquel Group, the world's largest woven shirt maker, has partnered with an industrial wastewater treatment firm in a bid to achieve zero liquid discharge at its wet processing manufacturing facilities.

Established five years ago at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Gradiant Corporation is headquartered in Boston and last year focused its attention on the growing US$500m wastewater desalination and zero liquid discharge market in Asia.

Its patented humidification - dehumidification (HDH) process transforms complex waste streams from power generation and textile manufacturing into fresh, reusable water.

Gradiant hopes to expedite commercialisation of its water treatment solutions within the textile market through its latest collaboration with Esquel Group.

"As a large vertically integrated textile and apparel manufacturer, we make efforts to minimise our ecological footprint every step of the way from cotton seed to shirt," explains Yugao Zhang, head of research and development at Esquel.

"Our goal is to institute innovative solutions to set new industrial benchmarks and preserve the environment where we operate. Gradiant has proven themselves as a true innovator in wastewater treatment and as a partner who can help us with our vision of making a difference."

Textile and garment production requires roughly 150 litres of water to produce one kilo of textile material or the equivalent of one day's attire for one person. The resulting wastewater carries with it dyes and chemicals that require advanced treatment to be safely discharged into the environment or reused in the process.

Progressive textile manufacturers are adopting desalination and evaporation technologies to remove dissolved solids and achieve zero liquid discharge.

Gradiant's HDH system removes harmful pollutants to recover clean water. This evaporator alternative mimics nature's rain cycle to reduce the cost of treatment by as much as 50%.

With manufacturing facilities in China, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, and merchandising offices servicing markets worldwide, Esquel manufactures over 100 million pieces of garments annually for leading brands including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.

Last month just-style spoke with Esquel Group vice chairman and CEO John Cheh, and also took a close look at the company's sustainability initiatives, including using fewer but more skilled workers, increasing productivity, investing in robotics and automation, micro-financing cotton farmers, and even selecting the whitest cotton fibres to reduce the bleaching process are among the initiatives.

Esquel CEO emphasises efficiency and sustainability

Esquel – From making shirts to making a difference