Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
2 minute read
31 Mar 2021
12:07 pm

How water used to make your jeans is being saved 

Nica Richards

When it comes to manufacturing a pair of jeans, water is used to soften the jeans and give them a worn-in look.

Before the waterless techniques were implemented, one pair of Levi’s jeans used 48 litres of water to be made. Now, 33 litres is used. Photo: iStock

South Africa’s water scarcity has been in the spotlight of late with the recent celebrations of World Water Day. 

It has been made abundantly clear that the call to save water must not only be heeded by ordinary consumers, but also by the private sector. 

One company stepping up to the plate is Levi’s, which has introduced a waterless finishing technique with the aim to save up to 96% of the water used in textile finishing processes. 

ALSO READ: Vulnerable communities in the spotlight this World Water Day

Levi’s aims to have 80% of its key factories become waterless by 2025.

Levi’s head of marketing Candace Gilowey said so far, more than 3 billion litres of water have been saved and more than 1.5 billion litres of water recycled through its waterless innovations. 

When it comes to manufacturing a pair of jeans, water is used to soften the jeans and give them a worn-in look.

Before the waterless techniques were implemented, one pair of Levi’s jeans used 48 litres of water to be made. Now, 33 litres is used. 

Gilowey said the water saving technology is open sourced to encourage other brands to also use it. 

In addition, black and grey water is being used in manufacturing processes to further prevent pollution of South Africa’s water systems. 

Around 19 million people depend on the Vaal River system for drinking water.

ALSO READ: Vaal River polluted ‘beyond acceptable standards’, says SAHRC

Recent assessments have however called into question the safety of the Vaal River for drinking purposes, with it being inundated with sewage, refuse, alien plants and chemical pollutants from manufacturing. 

The South African Human Rights Commission noted in February the Vaal River was polluted “beyond acceptable standards”. 

This was due to kilolitres of untreated sewage entering the Vaal River because of inoperative and dilapidated wastewater treatment plants which have been unable to properly process sewage and other wastewater.

Gilowey said Levi’s was also making concerted efforts to remove hazardous chemicals such as enzymes and softeners from the apparel supply chain.

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