Features : Apparel : Business/Strategy
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Vardhman A&E Threads Installs Zero Discharge ETP in Perundurai
Commitment to Nil ‘Carbon Footprint’
Vardhman A&E Threads recently inaugurated its new ETP unit constructed with American and Italian technologies at their manufacturing plant in Perundurai, Tamil Nadu. The company invited all its major clients from the buying and export houses on the occasion to visit the zero discharge plant which is reusing 93 per cent of the water in the dye house while the remaining 7 per cent reject is being evaporated through air, mechanical and solar evaporators to save energy. This ‘nil’ carbon footprint initiative propels the company to greater heights of commitment on sustainability. Team Apparel Online was also one of the invitees to this memorable event, taking the opportunity to interact with Team A&E from the US, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Team Vardhman from Ludhiana and Delhi.
A&E, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sewing, embroidery and technical textile threads for global industrial markets, has always strived to achieve the highest level of sustainability compliance through eco-driven initiatives. “A&E has been a long time advocate for environmental sustainability, working with some of the world’s largest retailers and brands to create standards for all textile suppliers and retailers,” says Les Miller, Chief Operating Officer, A&E.

According to the management of A&E, the company is committed to offering manufacturers the finest assortment of long-life threads for any and every
Team Vardhman and A&E from Delhi, Ludhiana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and America posed for a group photo for Apparel Online
application around the world. “With 122 years of experience under their belt, A&E’s premium threads help make garments that look better and last longer. For the manufacturer, premium threads results in fewer thread breakages and remakes, meaning more efficient production, as well,” reasons Angelo Leanage, Managing Director, A&E Bangladesh Ltd.

For almost 18 months, the Vardhman A&E manufacturing unit in Coimbatore was shut down because it was using a CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant) which is not equipped to treat all waste water generated from member units, as there were around 14 units which were using the same CETP and majority of them didn’t want to spend money for expansions. In Asia it is difficult to get a CETP working on zero discharge because all the units associated may not be ready to follow certain rules and regulations associated with CETP and also invest further to improve the process. So, when the CETP was shut down we took the opportunity to put up our own zero discharge ETP,” says John Eapen, Vice President, Environmental, Health & Safety, A&E, the man behind the ETP installation including technology, design, construction and operation and a chemical engineer by profession with over 40 years experience in textile business.
Built with a total investment of around Rs. 8.5 crore (US $ 1.86 million), neither A&E nor Vardhman are bothered to calculate the return on investment. “We do not look at ROI or expenditures when it comes to investing on saving the environment,” says Robert Hallett, Vice President, International Development A&E.

D.L. Sharma, Managing Director, Vardhman Yarns & Threads Ltd. adds, “Actually we are not measuring the social project with ROI as there is no direct linkage on ROI. Apart from the requirement from the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board, there is acute water shortage in TN and cost of water is very high which may help in lowering the net cost of treated water when recycled.

There is a realization that it is essential to have ETP to run the business and in the long term there will be a saving on water purchase and also returns from energy savings. However, John admitted that the expenses of running the ETP will increase the cost of manufacturing and obviously the company will have to capitalize the cost. “We have just started this plant so we don’t have all the right numbers but the cost will increase by a few rupees per kilogram of thread manufactured,” candidly acknowledges John.

Biological treatment important
The interesting part of the ETP is its biological treatment which most of the ETPs in India skip, concentrating on physical and chemical treatment. About 90 per cent of the pollution in the textile waste is soluble bio chemical, so it is important to have the biological system,” says John. It is presumed by many in the industry that just the physical and chemical

Les Miller
Chief Operating Officer, A&E
John Eapen
Vice President, Environmental, Health & Safety, A&E
treatment and then reverse osmosis will do the trick, however it’s a misconception. Majority of the pollution is removed in the biological plant, then comes the reverse osmosis, but you need to do a lot more clean up before the reverse osmosis so those two sections are very important; if it’s not done properly both, one or the other is damaged.

A&E tries to use chemicals as less as possible; it rather prefers using nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous because textile waste water is deficient in these nutrients and nutrients are needed for the bacteria. “The biological system is dependent on the bacteria to eat the pollution which is food for them and we have to maintain the bacteria at the right level; we try our level best to avoid chemicals as far as possible in our treatment plant,” highlights John.

The biologically treated waste water is passed through Quartz Filter before the Ultra Filtration to remove all suspended materials. It is then passed through a series of pre-treatment before passing through Reverse Osmosis, like resin treatment to remove the organic colour; followed by softener to remove the hardness, followed by decarbonator to remove all gases and then only the water goes into Micron Filter and 3-stages of reverse osmosis. “This process helps to recover 93 per cent of the waste water and the quality meets our process quality standards. The 93 per cent water which we recover is better than city water we have been purchasing so far,” adds John. We have taken all precautions to safe guard the membrane life and also for the trouble-free operations round the year.

The 7 per cent which is termed as reject goes through three series of evaporators – air, mechanical and solar – to save energy. The major treatment costs are involved in Reject Management and “We convert the liquids into solids and those solids are taken to Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility Zone situated almost 550 km. away from the facility, because in India all solids coming out from textile mills are defined as hazardous in nature,” points out John. The ZLD plant is fully automized and all running information are available through SCADA to all required parties. The unit also provided online connection to TNPCB for monitoring all discharge parameters. The successful installation of the ETP was appreciated by many from the industry.
A&E follows stringent international norms to control pollution
A&E has extremely stringent international norms pertaining to saving the environment. The company has its manufacturing across the globe and all its operations follow the same guidelines. “If the local country regulations are more stringent than ours, obviously we’ll follow that otherwise we follow international standards. We don’t allow our local people anywhere be it in India or Bangladesh to say this is normal in our country, we don’t allow anyone to abuse environment; this includes our joint ventures too,” categorically states John. Robert added, “A&E will continue to invest in innovative technologies to help reduce the environmental footprint of our operations, including our facilities and processes across the world.”

Generally the ETPs installed in India or anywhere in the sub continent start showing deteriorating results within six months of its installation and according to ETP expert John, the main reason is shortcuts to save money. “Companies think that once they install an ETP they can get good quality water forever; the fact is that it may last for six months after which the membranes start getting damaged and quality of treated water starts declining. What I find in most of the Asian countries is that they just shut down the ETP system when it stops performing, not realising that it is a waste of investment and all it needs is regular maintenance,” concludes John.
“With sustainability, you can be a preferred supplier”
D.L. Sharma, Managing Director, Vardhman Yarns & Threads Ltd.
Interview Excerpts…

AO: We have seen that Vardhman & A&E are working very hard towards sustainability but all this means cost, do you think that your buyers and suppliers are prepared to share the incurred cost with you?
DL: I think that this commitment on sustainability cannot be valued in terms of cost recovery. This is a commitment to service the customers and give the benefit to the society in the long run for sustainability in perpetuity. First of all no customers or no supplier shares the costs but certainly if you are doing the right things like sustainability, you can be a preferred supplier. You can get preference from your buyer because ultimately the consumers pay for it. There are indirect advantages that come and it is actually a part of social responsibility; one is not always looking at profitability; it is about the right way of running the business.

AO: What has been the expansion strategy for Vardhman?
DL: We have benefited from our expansion into other states. Initially the focus was only Punjab, but when the political crises in the late 80s compelled us to move to locations outside Punjab, it opened a whole new door of opportunities. Our factories in Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were more costeffective at that time, as Himachal Pradesh has huge hydro-electric projects with lower energy cost while Madhya Pradesh was economical because of availability and economical land prices. The location in Madhya Pradesh has better
D.L. Sharma, Managing Director, (sitting) with Sanjeev Narula (L), Sr. Vice President along with Neeraj Abbott, Chief Executive – Manufacturing,Vardhman Yarns & Threads Ltd
access to the ports. Our expansion into Gujarat marked the establishment of our acrylic fibre plant and we moved into Tamil Nadu to service customers in the South as it’s a critical market for apparel sewing.

AO: Other than sustainability, which all are the critical areas in your business which needs attention?
DL: In the thread business we need to do a lot more on sustainability, the key is how to optimize your cost of manufacturing and cost of social obligation. The need is that we work out the right technology, reduce our water consumption, save on energy consumption; recover as much a thermal energy and save on electrical consumption. All costs are going up and energy is the most expensive component today.

Then we have to work on improving the skills and productivity of the people working with us, so that along with improving the skills to produce the right product in the very first time the cost of wastages are reduced. We still have to work a lot in these areas. We have to work harder on seamless supplies with on time deliveries as it is an extra cost on us if we do not deliver on time. It’s more to do with consolidation of our internal systems and processes against any further facility build-up.

AO: Any further expansion plans?
DL: We have created our manufacturing structure in such a manner that even if the demand increases, we will be able to satisfy the same with the present capacity or by marginal addition of certain equipments and machines. There will be some addition in machines for speciality sewing threads or for non apparel sewing applications like filament threads, industrial applications and technical textiles, which is the major focus area for the future.
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