Over-Consumption and Over-Production Will Have No Place in New Economy

The inaugural Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS), organised by ESMA, looked at all critical factors and global trends which influence the textile market condition today and in the nearest future: customer-made fashion, responsible businesses, quality concerns, customisation and personalisation. ESMA Chief Executive Peter Buttiens talks about the key takeaways from TPS 2020 and how textile printing will change in the days to come.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • Knowledge transfer, be it in formal or informal way, was at the core of the Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference.
  • Print-on-demand will be a trend within certain segments as people are adapting to different pricing between a traditional in-store purchase and an on-demand production.
  • DTG continues to grow, also in terms of sustainability.
The Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS) explored critical factors and global trends which influence the textile market condition today and in the nearest future: customer-made fashion, responsible businesses, quality concerns, customisation and personalisation.
For Responsible Business The Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS) explored critical factors and global trends which influence the textile market condition today and in the nearest future: customer-made fashion, responsible businesses, quality concerns, customisation and personalisation. ESMA

The European Specialist Printing Manufacturers Association (ESMA) was founded in 1990. ESMA's objectives are to promote adoption and correct use of various specialist printing processes. ESMA's new Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS) covers the entire supply chain, involves manufacturers of products which support the handling of fabrics, the printing process itself, as well as printers, value added resellers and brand owners. TPS 2022 was held at Düsseldorf-Neuss in Germany from 8-9 Sepember.

The TPS event is very different from FESPA, in that it is streamlined for our industry.
It is very difficult to compare a conference with a trade fair. TPS is a focused educational event with an accompanying networking part. Knowledge transfer, be it in formal or informal way, remains at the core of our project. Technology suppliers have 25 minutes to explain their solutions, challenges and ideas about sustainability. They must remain technical and educational in nature while the commercial part can follow in the tabletop area where you can talk business.

What was the most significant thing that you noticed at this year's TPS 2022?
Since it was the first edition, we were not sure what to expect. In the end, it seemed that we set a new standard in approaching sustainability aspects in textile printing. The way we put together the conference programme—with 25 presentations, including contributions from major industry players, research centres and inspiring keynotes—was highly appreciated by TPS attendees. Many were surprised with the level of details and variety of perspectives.

This is the first textile printing event after the announcement of the EU Textiles Strategy.  How is it affecting the textile printing segment? How, from what you have noticed, are printer manufacturers (as also allied segments like inks) gearing up for a new Europe?
Actually, the European Textile Platform was the first one with their conference in April 2022 in Brussels and a strong support of the European Commission itself. However, that was for textiles in general, while TPS looks at printing in specific. The textile supply chain is long and complex, and we decided to target only a part of it. By some, printing can be considered a bottleneck for sustainability, as it bestows more or less virgin fabrics with chemicals (pre-treatment, colours and the like).

Today, 93% of textiles are decorated with screen printing, and new pastes, screens and colour kitchens are developed to reduce waste and dirt. What is still responsible for lots of energy and resource consumption are the pre- and post-treatment processes. Ink manufacturers have been improving water-based pigment ink formulations, as well as organic pigments. Same goes for digital printing with its efficiency and flexibility. These trends are visible both in Europe and Asia.    

Related question. Your event announcement (from 6 Jul on ESMA website) talks of the EU Green Deal targeting textiles as "one of the world's most polluting sectors." As part of the textile ecosystem, where does the printing sector stand? What changes can we expect to see on this count? Would it be more in hardware? Or inks/pigments etc?
The Green Deal is not only targeting the supplier industry but also brands and end users. EU clearly attempts to reverse trends such as “fast fashion” and actually put it “out of fashion”. Make-wear-waste needs to change to make-wear-repair – in line with circular economy which uses fibres until the very end of their usage potential.

Today, the textile sindustry feeds 250 million people worldwide but it consumes 80 billion of water, produces 1.7 billion CO2 emissions and is responsible for 20% of global water pollution on yearly basis. Linear models are losing their validity, and the Green Deal is a real manifesto for Europe which may be a shock for the fashion business but knowing that an average European throws aways 13 kg of textiles, there is no other sensible choice than to change.

Today, the textile industry feeds 250 million people worldwide but it consumes 80 billion of water, produces 1.7 billion CO2 emissions and is responsible for 20% of global water pollution on yearly basis. Linear models are losing their validity, and the Green Deal is a real manifesto for Europe which may be a shock for the fashion business but knowing that an average European throws aways 13 kg of textiles, there is no other sensible choice than to change.

The event assembled industry experts from two main printing processes – screen and inkjet – to promote best practices, discuss new application fields and explain benefits and challenges of individual technology choices.
Talking Heads The event assembled industry experts from two main printing processes – screen and inkjet – to promote best practices, discuss new application fields and explain benefits and challenges of individual technology choices. ESMA

How would you describe the pace of change in textile printing (screen and digital)? Is it moving at a frenetic pace, or is it slow and steady?
Digital printing has been around in textile for nearly two decades but now it matures enough to enter volume production. There are still some major bottlenecks which are resolved step by step. Pigments inks that are working without pre-treatment are one of the issues, but solutions become better and are comparable to the ones from rotary screen printing. This will simplify the process and reduce many steps and products but also energy and water.

Which of the two is more likely: will printing technologies change the way the fashion/textile industry is shaping up, or will fashion trends (especially movement against fast fashion as also material innovations) dictate the way printing is done? Doesn't the latter seem more likely?
I think it is the European Commission that will streamline the fashion/textile industry by passing Green Deal legislation which will be acceptable for sales within Europe. Naturally, the EU’s approach is much broader than printing, inks or chemicals. It looks at each step and the circular economy behind the products. Another example of a technological response is stitching with nylon threads which can be dissolved via heat without destroying the textile materials for recycling. Remember, the biggest changes will follow from the shift from linear to circular economy.

Has the direct-to-garment (DTG) segment grown according to industry expectations? If volumes are low, then this segment can't grow. And if fast fashion is to be curbed, then this segment will be the first to be affected. Your comments, please.
DTG continues to grow, also in terms of sustainability. The advantage here is that confection is done before decoration which limits the complexity. The decoration is also only a limited percentage of the whole textile surface. Nevertheless, screen printing still plays a capital role within this segment. We have seen developments of water-based pigments inks and special mesh (e.g. by Sefar) which helps to reduce the ink use with 30% and solves also the biggest problem of the quick drying of the inks on the mesh.

The company Virus Inks from Italy has developed water-based and no-dry screen printing inks which are PVC-, phthalate- and formaldehyde-free. They use the WOW (wet-on-wet printing). On the top of this, they developed a black ink from recycled inks. New developments such as DTF (direct-to-film) are also more sustainable and an excellent solution for DTG. I believe that DTG segment is going to be one of the first segments within the textile industry to fulfil the Green Deal.

Over-consumption and over-production will have no place in the new economy. The consumer can see this already now as many brands promote new models of buying or leasing clothes or even shoes: Buying with a repair/return option and renting within a certain time frame of the life cycle of the textile product. The main goal is again becoming circular and not contributing to the growing landfills.

Peter Buttiens
Peter Buttiens / Chief Executive Officer / ESMA

An extension of this would be on-demand printing. How is ESMA gearing up its members to cash in on this as the trend picks up momentum? Opinion is divided over whether on-demand printing will make people more circumspect, or drive mindless consumption. What is your take?
First of all, when we look at the EU and UN agendas, one of the first things they will tell is that the consumer will have to adapt as much as the industry. Over-consumption and over-production will have no place in the new economy. The consumer can see this already now as many brands promote new models of buying or leasing clothes or even shoes: Buying with a repair/return option and renting within a certain time frame of the life cycle of the textile product. The main goal is again becoming circular and not contributing to the growing landfills.

Also, brands will have to avoid overstocking and the typical end of season sales. Print-on-demand will be a trend within certain segments as people are adapting to different pricing between a traditional in-store purchase and an on-demand production. Probably we will observe this with luxury products that offer more possibilities of unique design of all details (including stitching, buttons, zippers) and this is how we get closer to the near-shoring effect and micro factories.

What kind of technological advancements are we going to see in both conventional as well as digital printing in the coming years?
Overall, both technologies are working to the maximum but screen has to make rapid changes to prove its sustainability potential and keep its market share. Concerning digital printing which is still the smaller part in the global production, it is important to keep convincing the conservative textile market on the potential and reliability but even more on the flexibility of this technology for the future. We see an interesting approach with digital technology in textile dyeing which saves enormous amounts of water and energy. We have seen also thread printing for optimised embroidery solutions or thread colouring for making colour specific threads. The thread printing for weaving is not yet possible but this would simplify weaving in the future.

What kind of innovations are we likely to see in terms of inks? Do you see enough R&D work in the development of new-generation inks?
As mentioned before, pigment inks which are water-based will be necessary for either technology to potentially eliminate pre-treatment and optimise post-treatment. The inks will be free of PVC, phthalate and formaldehyde and fulfil all other European regulations. During our latest TPS conference, it was very clear that inks are re-developed in this way and they also become more efficient to print better with less resources. The post and pre-treatment is either to be avoided or optimised to reduce material loss, ink and energy and – most importantly—water usage. For screen printing, we see the use of automated colour kitchens with improved recycling and waste reduction of mixed ink paste or spot colours.

The Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS) has emerged as a new platform for learning and networking about the disruptive developments in printing on all types of textiles.
New Platform The Textile Printing & Sustainability Conference (TPS) has emerged as a new platform for learning and networking about the disruptive developments in printing on all types of textiles. ESMA
 
 
  • Dated posted: September 23, 2022
  • Last modified: September 23, 2022