These days, environmental efforts to clean up the denim supply chain focuses on water and energy use. However, that misses a large part of jeans' negative environmental impact. Because a lot of chemicals go into making a pair of jeans.
At every step of the production chain, chemicals are inserted to facilitate some sort of process. Synthetic petro-chemicals are added in the spinning process to make the cotton stretchiermore stretchy. The dye bath, which is one of the most chemical intensive steps, contains all sorts of dye fixatives, oxidizing agents, reducing agents, and enzymes to bind the synthetic dye to the cotton. To get the yarns stiff enough to run through the loom, the material is sized with PVA, resins, and waxes. After the fabric is woven, the desizing process uses acids and enzymes to dissolve those chemicals that are coating the yarns, which are washed out into the wastewater stream. And in the final step, heavy bleaches and lightening agents are used to create fades and finishes, to give that "worn in" look.
These chemicals help give denim jeans the distressed look and feel that customers want. Unfortunately, these chemicals are harmful to the workers who work with them and breathe them in. And when not treated properly, will pollute and change the pH of water systems in the surrounding community. Furthermore, there have been few studies conducted to affirm the safety of chemicals on this material after prolonged contact with the wearer's skin.
Some of these chemicals have been vetted by by standardization organizations as safe, if treated properly. Others are more dangerous in high volumes. At SOURCE Denim, we are working with environmental organizations like Greenpeace to detox the entire production process of our denim, and work towards the international goal of Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.
SOURCE Denim uses an innovative biopolymer called Chitosan, which comes from food waste, and naturally replaces harsh and heavy chemicals used in the dyeing process. This enables SOURCE Denim to use 40% less chemicals in their jeans making process, compared to conventional denim. That means less pollutants going into the water, and less chemicals that endanger the health of workers and wearers alike!