Advancing life cycle sustainability of textiles through technological innovations | Nature Sustainability

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Nature Sustainability (2022 )Cite this article Ramie And Cotton

Advancing life cycle sustainability of textiles through technological innovations | Nature Sustainability

Throughout their life cycle, textiles produce 5–10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and consume the second-largest amount of the world’s water with polluting microplastics and chemical agents released to waterways. Here we examine the state-of-the-art technology developments meant to solve these problems in a cradle-to-grave fashion. We analyse their impacts with respect to the Sustainable Development Goals in the United Nations Agenda 2030, particularly those concerning the deployment of natural resources, energy and environmental impacts. We follow a systematic analytical framework that identifies and elucidates impactful technologies. We further discuss future directions along which the green transformation of textiles could be accelerated.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Get full journal access for 1 year

All prices are NET prices. VAT will be added later in the checkout. Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

All prices are NET prices.

Alberghini, M. et al. Sustainable polyethylene fabrics with engineered moisture transport for passive cooling. Nat. Sustain. 4, 715–724 (2021).

Singh, R. P., Mishra, S. & Das, A. P. Synthetic microfibers: pollution toxicity and remediation. Chemosphere (2020).

Borrelle, S. B. et al. Why we need an international agreement on marine plastic pollution. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 114, 9994–9997 (2017).

DelRe, C. et al. Near-complete depolymerization of polyesters with nano-dispersed enzymes. Nature 592, 558–563 (2021).

Sousa, A. F. et al. Biobased polyesters and other polymers from 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid: a tribute to furan excellency. Polym. Chem. 6, 5961–5983 (2015).

Guo, Z., Eriksson, M., Motte, H. D. L. & Adolfsson, E. Circular recycling of polyester textile waste using a sustainable catalyst. J. Clean. Prod. (2021).

Chamas, A. et al. Degradation rates of plastics in the environment. ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng. 8, 3494–3511 (2020).

Bataineh, K. M. Life-cycle assessment of recycling postconsumer high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate. Adv. Civil Eng. (2020).

Häußler, M., Eck, M., Rothauer, D. & Mecking, S. Closed-loop recycling of polyethylene-like materials. Nature 590, 423–427 (2021).

Shieh, P. et al. Cleavable comonomers enable degradable, recyclable thermoset plastics. Nature 583, 542–547 (2020).

Rahman, M. H. & Bhoi, P. R. An overview of non-biodegradable bioplastics. J. Clean. Prod. (2021).

Cucina, M., de Nisi, P., Tambone, F. & Adani, F. The role of waste management in reducing bioplastics’ leakage into the environment: a review. Bioresour. Technol. (2021).

Hufenus, R., Yan, Y., Dauner, M. & Kikutani, T. Melt-spun fibers for textile applications. Materials 13, 4298 (2020).

Yang, Y. et al. Poly(lactic acid) fibers, yarns and fabrics: manufacturing, properties and applications. Text. Res. J. 91, 1641–1669 (2021).

Kopf, S., Åkesson, D. & Skrifvars, M. Textile fiber production of biopolymers—a review of spinning techniques for polyhydroxyalkanoates in biomedical applications. Polym. Rev. (2022).

Khan, A. et al. Nitrogen nutrition in cotton and control strategies for greenhouse gas emissions: a review. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 24, 23471–23487 (2017).

Deguine, J. P., Ferron, P. & Russell, D. Sustainable pest management for cotton production. A review. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28, 113–137 (2008).

Xiao, Y. & Wu, K. Recent progress on the interaction between insects and Bacillus thuringiensis crops. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2019).

Veres, A. et al. An update of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) on systemic pesticides. Part 4: alternatives in major cropping systems. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 27, 29867–29899 (2020).

Serrano-Ruiz, H., Martin-Closas, L. & Pelacho, A. M. Biodegradable plastic mulches: impact on the agricultural biotic environment. Sci. Total Environ. (2021).

Bi, S. et al. Biodegradable polyester coated mulch paper for controlled release of fertilizer. J. Clean. Prod. (2021).

Dai, J., Kong, X., Zhang, D., Li, W. & Dong, H. Technologies and theoretical basis of light and simplified cotton cultivation in China. Field Crops Res. 214, 142–148 (2017).

Felgueiras, C., Azoia, N. G., Gonçalves, C., Gama, M. & Dourado, F. Trends on the cellulose-based textiles: raw materials and technologies. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. (2021).

Biodiversity in Bamboo Forests: A Policy Perspective for Long Term Sustainability (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, 2010).

Song, X. et al. Carbon sequestration by Chinese bamboo forests and their ecological benefits: assessment of potential, problems, and future challenges. Environ. Rev. 19, 418–428 (2011).

Sayyed, A. J., Deshmukh, N. A. & Pinjari, D. V. A critical review of manufacturing processes used in regenerated cellulosic fibres: viscose, cellulose acetate, cuprammonium, LiCl/DMAc, ionic liquids, and NMMO based lyocell. Cellulose 26, 2913–2940 (2019).

Beckwith, A. L., Borenstein, J. T. & Velásquez-García, L. F. Tunable plant-based materials via in vitro cell culture using a Zinnia elegans model. J. Clean. Prod. 288, 125571 (2021).

Koç, E. & Kaplan, E. An investigation on energy consumption in yarn production with special reference to ring spinning. Fibres Text. East. Eur. 15, 18–24 (2007).

Yin, R., Tao, X. & Jasper, W. A theoretical model to investigate the performance of cellulose yarns constrained to lie on a moving solid cylinder. Cellulose 27, 9683–9698 (2020).

Yang, K., Tao, X. M., Xu, B. G. & Lam, J. Structure and properties of low twist short-staple singles ring spun yarns. Text. Res. J. 77, 675–685 (2007).

Ying, G. et al. Investigation and evaluation on fine Upland cotton blend yarns made by the modified ring spinning system. Text. Res. J. 85, 1355–1366 (2015).

Xue, J., Wu, T., Dai, Y. & Xia, Y. Electrospinning and electrospun nanofibers: methods, materials, and applications. Chem. Rev. 119, 5298–5415 (2019).

Hasanbeigi, A. Energy-Efficiency Improvement Opportunities for the Textile Industry (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2010).

Münkel, A., Gloy, Y. S. & Gries, T. Development and testing of a relay nozzle concept for air-jet weaving. IOP Conf. Seri. Mate. Sci. Eng. 254, 132003–132008 (2017).

Jordan, JV, Kemper, M., Renkens, W. & Gloy, Y.-S.Magnetic weft insertion for weaving machines.Text.Res.J. 88, 1677–1685 (2018).

Xiang, W. et al. Foam processing of fibers as a sustainable alternative to wet-laying: fiber web properties and cause–effect relations. ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng. 6, 14423–14431 (2018).

Du, C., Meng, Z., Sun, Y. & Yu, J. Optimal design of the horn gear for rotary three-dimensional braiding machine. J. Text. Inst. (2020).

Yin, R. et al. Cleaner production of mulberry spun silk yarns via a shortened and gassing-free production route. J. Clean. Prod. 278, 123690 (2021).

Jiang, G., Zhou, M., Zheng, B., Zheng, P. & Liu, H. Research progress of green and low-carbon knitting technology.J. Text.Res. 43, 67–73 (2022).

Lozano, L. M. et al. Optical engineering of polymer materials and composites for simultaneous color and thermal management. Opt. Mater. Express 9, 1990–2005 (2019).

Ruiz-Clavijo, A. et al. Engineering a full gamut of structural colors in all-dielectric mesoporous network metamaterials. ACS Photon. 5, 2120–2128 (2018).

Banchero, M. Recent advances in supercritical fluid dyeing. Color. Technol. 136, 317–335 (2020).

Hu, E., Shang, S., Tao, X., Jiang, S. & Chiu, K.-L. Minimizing freshwater consumption in the wash-off step in textile reactive dyeing by catalytic ozonation with carbon aerogel hosted bimetallic catalyst. Polymers 10, 193 (2018).

Hu, E., Shang, S., Tao, X.-M., Jiang, S. & Chiu, K.-L. Regeneration and reuse of highly polluting textile dyeing effluents through catalytic ozonation with carbon aerogel catalysts. J. Clean. Prod. 137, 1055–1065 (2016).

Song, Y. et al. Green and efficient inkjet printing of cotton fabrics using reactive dye@copolymer nanospheres. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 12, 45281–45295 (2020).

Eid, B. M. & Ibrahim, N. A. Recent developments in sustainable finishing of cellulosic textiles employing biotechnology. J. Clean. Prod. (2021).

Udhayamarthandan, S. & Srinivasan, J. Integrated enzymatic and chemical treatment for single-stage preparation of cotton fabrics. Text. Res. J. 89, 3937–3948 (2019).

Nambela, L., Haule, L. V. & Mgani, Q. A review on source, chemistry, green synthesis and application of textile colorants. J. Clean. Prod. (2020).

Phan, K. et al. Non-food applications of natural dyes extracted from agro-food residues: a critical review. J. Clean. Prod. (2021).

Boriskina, S. V. Optics on the go. Opt. Photon. News 28, 34–41 (2017).

Gauvreau, B. et al. Color-changing and color-tunable photonic bandgap fiber textiles. Opt. Express 16, 15677–15693 (2008).

Hasanbeigi, A. & Price, L. A technical review of emerging technologies for energy and water efficiency and pollution reduction in the textile industry. J. Clean. Prod. 95, 30–44 (2015).

Muensterman, D. J. et al. Disposition of fluorine on new firefighter turnout gear. Environ. Sci. Technol. 56, 974–983 (2022).

Hill, P. J., Taylor, M., Goswami, P. & Blackburn, R. S. Substitution of PFAS chemistry in outdoor apparel and the impact on repellency performance. Chemosphere 181, 500–507 (2017).

Konstantinou, I. K. & Albanis, T. A. TiO2-assisted photocatalytic degradation of azo dyes in aqueous solution: kinetic and mechanistic investigations: a review. Appl. Catal. B 49, 1–14 (2004).

Yaseen, D. & Scholz, M. Textile dye wastewater characteristics and constituents of synthetic effluents: a critical review. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 16, 1193–1226 (2019).

Sondhi, S. in Sustainable Technologies for Fashion and Textiles (ed. Nayak, R.) 327–341 (Elsevier, 2020).

Wang, B., Su, H. & Zhang, B. Hydrodynamic cavitation as a promising route for wastewater treatment—a review. Chem. Eng. J. 412, 128685 (2021).

Bhatia, D., Sharma, N. R., Singh, J. & Kanwar, R. S. Biological methods for textile dye removal from wastewater: a review. Crit. Rev. Environ. Sci. Technol. 47, 1836–1876 (2017).

Götz, T. & Tholen, L. Stock model based bottom-up accounting for washing machines: worldwide energy, water and greenhouse gas saving potentials 2010–2030. Tenside Surfactants Deterg. 53, 410–416 (2016).

Koohsaryan, E., Anbia, M. & Maghsoodlu, M. Application of zeolites as non-phosphate detergent builders: a review. J. Environ. Chem. Eng. (2020).

Joondan , N. , Angundhooa , HD , Bhowon , MG , Caumul , P. & Laulloo , SJ Detergent properties of coconut oil derived N-acyl prolinate surfactant and the in silico studies on its effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). ).Tensile Surfactants Deterg.Rev. 57, 361–374 (2020).

Farias, C. B. B. et al. Production of green surfactants: market prospects. Electron. J. Biotechnol. 51, 28–39 (2021).

Jimoh, A. A. & Lin, J. Biosurfactant: a new frontier for greener technology and environmental sustainability. Ecotoxicol. Environ. Safety (2019).

Nondurable Goods: Product-Specific Data (EPA, 2021);

Ashby, M. F. Materials and Sustainable Development (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2016).

A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2017);

Esteve-Turrillas, F. A. & de la Guardia, M. Environmental impact of Recover cotton in textile industry. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 116, 107–115 (2017).

Beltrán, F. R., Lorenzo, V., Acosta, J., de la Orden, M. U. & Martínez Urreaga, J. Effect of simulated mechanical recycling processes on the structure and properties of poly(lactic acid). .J. Environ. Manage. 216, 25–31 (2018).

Beltrán, F. R., Infante, C., de la Orden, M. U. & Martínez Urreaga, J. Mechanical recycling of poly(lactic acid): evaluation of a chain extender and a peroxide as additives for upgrading the recycled plastic. J. Clean. Prod. 219, 46–56 (2019).

Yousef, S. et al. A new strategy for using textile waste as a sustainable source of recovered cotton. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 145, 359–369 (2019).

Haslinger, S., Hummel, M., Anghelescu-Hakala, A., Määttänen, M. & Sixta, H. Upcycling of cotton polyester blended textile waste to new man-made cellulose fibers. Waste Manage. 97, 88–96 (2019).

Quartinello, F. et al. Highly selective enzymatic recovery of building blocks from wool–cotton–polyester textile waste blends. Polymers 10, 1107 (2018).

Lv, F. et al. Recycling of waste nylon 6/spandex blended fabrics by melt processing. Composites B 77, 232–237 (2015).

Ma, Z. et al. Biodegradable polyurethane ureas with variable polyester or polycarbonate soft segments: effects of crystallinity, molecular weight, and composition on mechanical properties. Biomacromolecules 12, 3265–3274 (2011).

Sandvik, I. M. & Stubbs, W. Circular fashion supply chain through textile-to-textile recycling. J. Fashion Mark. Manage. 23, 366–381 (2019).

Sodhi, M. & Knight, W. A. Product design for disassembly and bulk recycling. CIRP Ann. Manuf. Technol. 47, 115–118 (1998).

X.T. was supported by the Endowed Professorship Fund of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (grant no. 847 A). S.B. acknowledges the support of the DEVCOM Soldier Center through the US Army Research Office (W911NF-13-D-0001), the MIT Deshpande Center and Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA, W15QKN-16-3-0001).

Research Institute for Intelligent Wearable Systems, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Lisha Zhang, Man Yui Leung & Xiaoming Tao

School of Fashion and Textiles, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Lisha Zhang, Man Yui Leung & Xiaoming Tao

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Research, Cambridge, MA, USA

Institute for Sustainable Urban Development, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kowloon, Hong Kong

You can also search for this author in PubMed  Google Scholar

You can also search for this author in PubMed  Google Scholar

You can also search for this author in PubMed  Google Scholar

You can also search for this author in PubMed  Google Scholar

L.Z. and M.Y.L. collected the information, made all figures and tables and revised the manuscript. S.B. contributed to the framework and material developments. X.T. conceived the framework and led the writing of the manuscript. All authors wrote the manuscript.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Nature Sustainability thanks Andrea Zille, Kevin Golovin, Kirsi Niinimäki and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Tables 1–7 and Review Methodology.

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Zhang, L., Leung, M.Y., Boriskina, S. et al. Advancing life cycle sustainability of textiles through technological innovations. Nat Sustain (2022).


Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

Nature Sustainability (Nat Sustain) ISSN 2398-9629 (online)

Advancing life cycle sustainability of textiles through technological innovations | Nature Sustainability

Spun Poly Yarn Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.