06 December 2018
Raw Materials in Cotton Fitted Bedsheet
“Bedsheets are the most important thing in the world,” muses Bunny Williams, who has been decorating Upper East Side apartments and Connecticut country homes for over 30 years (What Are the Best Bedsheets). Therefore, bedding is one of the largest textile markets in the United States, and bedsheets and pillowcases account for 33% of this market in 2005 (Product and Market Analysis for Bed-sheets in the United States). Even though bed sheets become an important necessity for people’s daily life, we bearly deeply think about the raw material used in the lifespan of a bed sheet begins from the cotton in the ground and ends at a landfill. However, by analyzing the lifecycle and sustainability of cotton fitted bed sheet, which is the largest proportion in the category of bed sheet, it can show how the process of making bed sheets and the materials used while transporting and recycling, can greatly affect both the energy used and the waste emitted.
A bed sheet is a flat-woven textile that is used on a bed between the occupant of a bed and the warm blanket above. It is generally a rectangle of broad-loomed fabric, meaning it is made without a center seam. Upon that, a fitted bed sheet is prepared from a simple, substantially rectangular blank of textile material by inexpensive manufacturing techniques which provide fitted or mitered corners whereby the sheet clings to the mattress or pad upon which it is placed and resists movements to shift or dislodge it therefrom, and wherein there is substantially no excess textile material to form undesirable pockets, recesses, or folds (Fitted bed sheet). Therefore, an elastic (How to Sew Your Own Fitted Sheets) which is made from butadiene, styrene, isobutylene, and acrylonitrile, synthetic rubber production, synthetic rubber prices, and synthetic rubber trade is an important material for fitted bedsheet that flat bedsheet does not include.
Bedsheet can be made from different materials such as cotton, flannel, silk, and bamboo; however, since we are analyzing cotton fitted bed sheet, cotton will be the material to discuss. The major raw materials required are dyed cotton fabrics, dyed nylon fabrics and sewing thread which are available locally. The present demand for the proposed product is estimated at 1.7 million kg per annum. The demand is expected to reach 3.5 million kg by the year 2018 (PRODUCTION OF BED COVER, BED SHEETS). If cotton is to be spun into yarn in the bed sheet manufactory, 480 lb bales are purchased from a cotton producer. This cotton is often referred to as cotton wool because it is fuzzy like wool. It is still dirty and includes twigs, leaves, some seeds, and other debris from harvesting.
Even though cotton is the main raw materials for producing the cotton fitted bed sheet, we still need many other materials during the process of making bed sheet. First, procuring the cotton and blending. The bales are opened by a Uniflock machine that removes a portion of cotton from the top of each bale. Next, the machine beats the cotton together, removing impurities and initiating the blending process. The fibers are then blown through tubes to a mixing unit where the blending continues. Once blended, the fibers move through tubes to a carding machine, which aligns and orients the fibers in the same direction. Cylinders with millions of teeth pull and straighten the fibers and continue to remove impurities. For drawing, testing, and roving, the cotton fibers are further blended together and straightened as many strands of fibers are drawn together into one strand by a roving frame. The frame twists the fibers slightly and winds a cotton roving onto bobbins. Then, the rovings are spun on a ring spinner, drawing the cotton into a single small strand and twisting it as it spins. The yarn is then wound onto bobbins and the bobbins are placed onto winders that wind the thread onto section beams that will eventually fit onto a loom for weaving. Later, several section beams will be loaded onto the large warping beam, each contributing a portion of the warp. Each section beam goes through a slasher—a machine that coats the yarn with starch or sizing to protect the ends and makes the yarn easier to weave. Once coated with sizing, several section beams are loaded onto a single large loom beam. The knots are pulled through the machine and the weaving can begin. The weaving, in which the weft or filler threads interlock with the warp or vertical threads, is done on high-speed automatic air jet looms. Starches or sizing of some sort that is applied to the cotton threads to make them easier to weave. It is further finished by singeing—a process in which bits of yarn are burned off of the surface. Then, the sheeting is ready to be bleached. This is done in three steps. First, it is designed by bathing it in water and soaps that removes contaminants. Next, caustic chemicals are applied to get rid of dirt and remnants of debris found in cotton yarn. The caustic is washed out and concentrated bleaches are applied to dissipate the gray color. Now whitened, the sheeting is rolled into a rope and put into a dryer which takes the moisture out prior to dying. Once woven, the sheeting is bleached, rolled into a rope and dried, dyed, and rolled. Automatic cutting equipment cuts the roll into standard sheet lengths and the sheet hems are sewn. All sheeting is dyed after all that even sheeting sold as white must be dyed to become a truly white sheet. In order to give the gray-colored sheets color, pigments are applied to the sheeting in color vats that use large rollers to press the dyestuff into the material. Once dyed, the sheeting is steamed to set the color. Next, a resin is applied to the sheeting to control shrinkage. The sheeting is rolled onto huge rolls and is ready to be cut and sewn. Automatic cutting equipment pulls the cloth off the rolls as it automatically cuts the sheeting to the requisite length. The rolls are transferred to a sewing machine that sews the top and bottom hems.
Sheeting manufacturers carefully choose cotton bales. Cotton is classified by length and by quality. Shorter staples are used for batting, while longer staples are used to make higher quality products. Egyptian cotton is made from longer staples. Medium staples are considered standard. There are nine grades used to classify cotton from middling to good. Cotton with much debris and residue would be of a lower grade than that with fewer impurities. The lower grade bales tend to slow down the processing of the cotton into spool yarn and may never render a quality product. Thus, many plants will purchase bales based on test data received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure the bales are fairly clean. Many weaving facilities perform their own tests on bales to be purchased to assess quality and cleanliness (How bed sheet is made). From the statistic of how many cottons are needed for producing all the bedsheets in a year, we can analyze how the environment has been affected.
Furthermore, since bedsheet is a long life product that most people replace it only because they want a new style but not because the old one is broken. Therefore, analyzing the material used during transporting and recycling bedsheet are also important for bedsheet to save energy and eliminate waste.
Transporting the raw material cotton required fossil fuel because the shipments are mostly via truck and flatbed rail cars while long-haul shipments to the Pacific coast. Of those warehouses shipping to Mexico, 87.9% of those shipments were by truck, 0.5% by rail boxcar, and 11.6% by rail hauled container, on average. Of those shipping to the Pacific coast, 22.1% of those shipments were by truck, 2.3% by rail boxcar, and 75.6% by containers on flatbed rail cars. Respondents indicate that more than 85% of total annual shipments were to export markets in the 2005-06 crop year (Cotton Transportation and Logistics), which means a lot of fossil fuel is used while transporting.
In addition, San Franciscans send 4,500 pounds of textiles to landfill every hour. Most of the 39 million pounds of textiles we send to the waste stream each year can be reused or recycled into insulation material, flooring, packaging, or cushioning in stuffed toys, insoles, and bags (Recycle Your Clothes, Linens, and Rags). Cotton weavers have worked diligently in recent years to reduce polluting effluvia and cotton lint. Occasionally, fiber wastes resulting from spinning can be recycled and used for other cotton products. In the past, cotton lint generated inside factories was hazardous to the employees; however, now the air-jet looms generate little cotton dust. At the point in which greige goods are handled, there are automatic sweeping and cleaning machines to rid the rooms of ambient dust. Of greatest concern to the federal government are the chemicals used in the cleaning, bleaching, and dying of the goods. Federal regulations require that resulting liquid emitted from the factory meet state and federal clean water regulations, and mills are required to have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. The larger mills have invested in building their own wastewater treatment plants. Emissions are now governed by the Clean Air Act and must be within acceptable guidelines(How bed sheet is made).
A simple bedsheet contains so many different materials while producing, transferring, recycling and waste management. It is important for designers to think and manage the process correctly and sustainable. According to the latest consumer reports from Cotton Incorporated, customers now prefer quality over brand name and looks (Product and Market Analysis for Bed-sheets in the United States). We know people care about the product itself, and we can educate them by this article to make them understand the energy has been used and the waste it produced with the material used behind the cotton fitted bedsheet.
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4 December 2018
Cotton Fitted Bed Sheet Life Cycle Analysis: Energy
Productivity or Quality?
The majority of a standard bedding consists of two types of bedsheets: a fitted bed sheet and a flat bed sheet. Fitted bed sheet is a sheet that wraps around the mattress secured with an elastic band, and tucked underneath the mattress. A flat bed sheet is basically a rectangle sheet of cloth without the elastic bands. It is usually used on top of the fitted bed sheet. The purpose of a fitted bed sheet is to protect the longevity of the mattress. These bed sheets are used worldwide and a majority of them are made out of cotton since cotton fabrics are very easy to care for with its softness and breathability compared to other fabrics such as polyester, linen, etc. Cotton fitted bedsheets are widely massed produced and consumed in the world, but the amount of energy used throughout the life cycle of cotton fitted bed sheets rarely crosses people’s minds. Even though there is much energy consumption used in the machines, from extracting cotton from the field, to making the cotton fabric, to transporting them worldwide, and to eventually throw them away, cotton fitted bed sheets have a short lifespan because of the way cotton is handled through out the manufacturing process, which poses a major sustainability issue.
Since cotton is a universal textile and is constantly mass produced worldwide, the manufacturing process is becoming more efficient, but at the same time, producing lower quality cotton fabrics. The effects of technological advancement are both positive and negative when it comes to harvesting the cotton seeds. With new and advanced cotton picker machines, the harvesting time is reduced and the efficiency is maximized. The most current and advanced cotton picker machine runs on average 16 gallons of diesel exhaust fluid, and consumes average of 1 to 2 liters per kilometer. This huge tractor-like machine is a one man job, and it is driven up and down the cotton field, pulling cotton from the plants. As the cotton, seed, and other debris are pulled into the machine, they are blown out in the back and formed into a large wrap. Then, a forklift is sent to the field to group the completed wraps. Around 4 wraps of cotton are combined to make 1 module. A cotton module is basically a gigantic bread loaf shaped module that can weigh up to 25,000 pounds of cotton. Once these modules are formed, they are partially covered on the top in case of rain or wind. The module trucks would then transport the cotton modules to the nearby cotton gin. Although the vastly increased efficiency of mechanical harvesting is making it easier on the harvester, it is also increasing the mechanical damage to the cottonseed. According to the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station from Mississippi State University, these mechanical cotton harvesters are causing reduced germination and vigor of the cottonseed. They claim that the layers of the seed are injured during the mechanical harvesting process. Many of the seeds are damaged with the increase in the fan speed found in the cotton picker machine and in the cotton gin.
Advanced machineries used in the ginning process does not always come hand in hand with high energy consumption, but it can also save a sufficient amount of energy because of their high productivity rate. However, that does not always guarantee maximum quality of cotton. The cotton gin, which cleans and separates the cotton from the seed, was first invented by Eli Whitney in 1794. It served as a strainer since the cotton fiber would be caught and dragged by a series of small saws and hooks through a mesh, while the seeds were too big to pass through it. Back in those days, these simple cotton gins were first powered by a person or a horse, and by a steam engine a few years after. Today, cotton gins are more advanced. They are not only used to separate the cotton from the seed, but it also serves as a lint cleaning machinery to clean out the dirt, leaves, and other kinds of debris, as well as drying the moisture out. Ginning is a critical process and Paul Funk stated in his journal, Engineering and Ginning, “By 1945 cotton gins had largely abandoned steam power in favor of diesel, gas, and electric motors, which took less manpower to operate” (Funk). It is common for people to think that the use of machinery results with higher energy consumption. But surprisingly, the electrical consumption per unit in the cotton gin process, according the Engineering and Ginning, “decreased by 19% to 34% even as gin processing rates increased three to six fold and mechanization has made labor four to six times more productive” (Funk). In other words, the energy consumption decreased because some machinery in the ginning process required very minimal energy consumption, yet still produce high productivity rate. The module feeders, which are basically machines that breaks apart the modules and “feed” on the seed cotton into the gin requires very little energy. Also, the fans in the drying category of the ginning process have small energy consumption. The downside is that blades of the saws that break apart the modules are an important cause of damage to cottonseed, according to Mississippi State University. Studies have proven that these saws damage the seed with deep gashes in the seed coats, which reduces germination. Once the fiber and seed are seperated in the gin, the ginned fiber (lint), is condensed and pressed together into dense blocks called bales. The workers would then strap the bales and package them to be sent out. Each bale is about 500 pounds and a typical gin can process about 12 bales per hour, while the more modern and advanced gins can process to about 60 gins an hour. Every bale of cotton is then classed or graded depending on the measurement of fiber characteristics based on a set of standards. Classing of cotton is done by experts as they examine and judge the sample using scientific tools. The cotton would be priced and shipped to foreign countries, textile mills, etc.
Even though the harvesting of cotton takes months until they are ready to be transported, many cotton bales are at risk of facing damages associated with the carriage of raw cotton in the transportation process. Not only are some bales wasted, but also the energy used during the harvesting process. The transportation process of the cotton can take weeks and the cotton need to be stored well in order for the quality to stay consistent. Since cotton is sensitive to the weather, it can be damaged from rain, sand, wet ground and insects during the transportation process. Being exposed to these dangers can result in degradation of cotton fibres, discolouration and mold damage. This is why it is crucial for the bales to be stored properly. Cotton bales are transported in various transportation systems. Many of them are sent out in dry van trailers, trucks, ships, and in standard shipping containers. These transportation systems are mainly fueled by distillate fuels for trucks, trains, and ships. Depending on what the cotton will be used for, it be involved in selling or reselling. If a clothing company is interested in buying cotton, the bales would be transported to their textile mill. Specifically for cotton fitted bed sheets, cotton bales would be shipped out and sent to a textile mill where cotton fitted bed sheets are made.
The bundles of lint are now ready to be made into cotton fabrics. Once the bales arrive to their designated textile mill, it is ready to be woven into a fabric. The first step is for the cotton to be spun and weaved into a strong yarn. Once the bales are received by the textile mill, they are opened and laid by a cotton opening machine. This machine will pull the fibers from the bales. This process is called carding and the machine will continue to pull the fibers until the web of fibers is aligned and condensed into a rope-like strand. Next, they are sent to the coiler, which is a machine that takes the rows of fibers and forms them into thick and loose yarn called sliver. The sliver is then taken through the ring spinning process where the strands are thinned out to 3.5 to 16 times thinner than the sliver. They are thinned out and strengthened until they become a cotton yarn. All of this process is done in machines that run on electric energy in order to run. Next step is for the yarns to become sheets of fabric. Although there are few textile mills where workers still use the handweaving frames, many textile mills also use the modern power looms which are machines that do all the weaving. It is definitely more efficient, however it is causing reduced wages and unemployment since it reduced demand for skilled handweavers. Once the fabrics are made, it would need to be bleached because the fabric is gray in color. Textile bleaching and dyeing is a very common stage in the manufacturing of cotton fabrics, including cotton fitted bedsheets. The final step is to turn the cotton fabric into a fitted bedsheet, which is only a simple step. The finished fabrics would be transferred to sewing machines where they are hemmed and where the elastic strip is sewn and secured at the edges of the bed sheet. This is how the bed sheet become a fitted bed sheet. So far, a majority of the manufacturing process of cotton fabrics has mostly consisted of machines running on electrical energy consumption. Chemical energy, such as the fossil fuels, is the primary source of energy for the electric energy. From extracting the cotton from the field, to weaving them into fabrics, high energy consumption is very obvious throughout this process. It takes many steps and various kinds of machines to turn a cotton fibers into fabrics to be made into various clothing and items, including cotton fitted bedsheets. It also takes high consumption of fuels to transport the cottons around the world since it is widely and heavily marketed and used. However, most of the cotton fabrics made have short lifespans. With cotton fitted bedsheet, there is little to no energy used with the bed sheet except for washing it, covering the mattress with it, and sleeping on it. It is common for people to not give much thought on this bed sheet. And when it is no longer needed, it is common for people to throw them away. However, with clothing people can get creative with unwanted clothing such as stitching up holes or even taking unwanted clothes to a thrift store. If people were to recycle cotton fitted bed sheet by throwing it in a recycling trash bin, the garbage truck would take it and transport it to a sorting center where it will be recycled and reused. Recycling cotton fitted bedsheet works similarly with all textiles like clothings, blankets, etc. If the fibers are too worn, it cannot be recycled back into a cotton fitted bed sheet. Instead, it will be downcycled and used for other purposes. However, if people were to mindlessly throw away their cotton fitted bed sheet in a regular garbage can, fossil fuels would be used to transport them to landfills. At the landfills, the wastes are compacted when the compactor machines moves over it and degrades the wastes. However, since the landfills are designed to store wastes, and not to break them down, these wastes are not burned to become fuel or heat. According to New York’s DEC, once the wastes are shredded and compacted, they are covered with layer of clay and plastic shield. And then several feet of dirt is added on afterwards.
Is the amount of energy consumption in the manufacturing process more important or the quality of the cotton? Cotton fitted bed sheets continue to be used heavily mass produced and consumed, especially in a typical American home. The amount of energy and time put into the manufacturing and transporting process of the short lasting cotton fitted bed sheets is ongoing. Cotton fitted bed sheets that are made of conventional cotton are not long lasting and of poor quality. In contrast, organic cotton bed sheets lasts longer because of the high quality of the cotton fibers. Also, many organic cotton manufacturers follow The Organic Trade Association Standards, that use methods and materials that have low impact on the environment. Toxic pesticides are not used and better care is given to the cotton harvesting and manufacturing process. The amount of energy put into the lifecycle of cotton fitted bed sheet should either be decreased, or changed in order to produce materials that is sustainable and not toxic to our environment.
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6 December 2018
Life Cycle of Fitted Cotton Bedsheets: Waste and Emissions
Fitted cotton bedsheets are commonly used in households, hotels, and hospitals. However, the wastes and emissions created throughout their entire lifecycle are not commonly known. It is important to study the environmental aspects of fitted cotton bedsheets since they are among the most common bedding used. Cotton is the most popular material used in bedsheets (Osmond). Fitted sheets are the most common choice to cover mattresses. Learning about the environmental aspects of fitted cotton bedsheets allow people to make more educated and sustainable decisions when picking their bedsheets and recycling or disposing of them. Caution should be taken when choosing to dispose of bedding in landfills. When looking at the full cycle of fitted cotton bedsheets, the amount of wastes and emissions created throughout the entire process shows that there is a huge sustainability issue and we should not so wastefully use and quickly dispose of them.
The first phase is raw materials acquisition. During this time, latex, or rubber, is harvested and pre-treated with chemicals and ammonia. This creates large amounts of wastewater full of ammonia, which could leak into the surrounding environment and water suplies (Hilbert). Growing cotton fields emit N2O and NO, which contribute to higher levels greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The main factors are fertilizer, increased soil temperature, water-filled pore space soil ammonium and nitrate contents (Liu). Along with that, the cotton crops are sprayed with various pesticides, such as fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, miticides, fumigants, defoliants, and desiccants. These spread through the air and can leach into nearby water supplies (Rawlings & Reznik). Electricity use in cotton irrigation causes large amounts of greenhouse gases to be emitted. Mechanical harvesting machines also release some CO2 into the air (Maraseni).
When the cotton is ready to harvest, leaves, stems, burs, sticks, rocks, dirt, and other trash are picked up (Rawlings & Reznik). A study found that machine picked cotton produces 2.3 million more pounds of waste for 3,000 bales than hand-picked (Page). More unwanted trash being picked up with the cotton equates to more airborne emissions and particulate waste in the air during the processing stage (Rawlings & Reznik).
During the manufacturing, processing, and formulation stage, the raw cotton is processed in a cotton gin, where there are machines separating the cotton fibers from its seeds and other unwanted waste. Emissions are released when unloading the seed cotton at the gin, cleaning it, separating cotton from the seeds, cleaning the cotton, and baling it. There are many machines and methods used to reduce this airborne waste. Cotton gins in the U.S. use separators, condensers, cyclones, and inline filters in order to separate the product and waste from the conveying air stream and reduce pollution (Rawlings & Reznik). Another common one is wet scrubbers. They are devices that remove particle and gas pollutants from gas streams. This is done by introducing the gas stream to a liquid and transferring the pollutants from the air to the liquid (Wikipedia).
In a study conducted on the emissions of a cotton gin with a wet scrubber, about 37 g of particle matter was released per minute, 35 g of that were larger than 1-μm (Lee). In the study, the researchers found that the wet scrubber was 86% efficient in controlling and removing particles from the air (Lee). In the inlet air sample, there were detectable amounts of V, Cr, Co, Ni, Mn, Cu, Pb, and Sb, while in the outlet sample, only V was found. This meant the wet scrubber was successful in removing all the types of metal particles from the air, except for V. Many of the metal elements found were likely either naturally part of the cotton or from pest control agents. Particulate emissions from cotton gins could add to the trace metal burden in the atmosphere, but wet scrubbers have been useful in reducing emissions (Lee). However, when using wet scrubbers, the waste and emissions are then in liquid form. The dissolved pollutants form highly corrosive acids and pollute water (Wikipedia).
During the processing in a cotton gin, metal particles are not the only ones being emitted into the air. Since separating the cotton in a gin is done almost exclusively using air and fans, dirt, fine leaves, trash, and lint are also released into the atmosphere (Rawlings & Reznik). All this particulate matter also contains a significant amount of bacteria, pesticides, and arsenic, which is used as a defoliant. All this airborne pollution not only decreases visibility and poses a traffic hazard, it also creates a respiratory and health hazard (Page). In addition to particulate waste in the air, solid wastes are also an issue.
After the garbage picked up from the harvesting process is separated from the cotton in the gin, the waste is then incinerated, returned to the land, or disposed through other means. It is problematic when toxic pesticides are used. When the trash is burned, it releases all the toxins into the air. The cottonseeds are often used to make cottonseed oil or meal instead of being disposed of. Even through all this processing, the cotton lint and bales could have trace amounts of pesticides, which then stay with the cotton until the end of the bedsheet lifecycle (Rawlings & Reznik). The next processing that the cotton goes through is spinning. There are two methods, which are carding and combing. Carding results in 17% fiber waste, while combing results in 32% waste (Leighton). This completes the cotton processing.
As for the elastic process, the latex is further processed with even more various chemicals. These chemicals are later washed out and create large amounts of waste water (Harunsyah). Throughout these previous steps, the materials had been transported from location to location.
In the distribution and transportation step, fitted cotton bedsheet materials are shipped from the fields to the cotton gins, to the cotton spinners, to other processing centers, to the distributers, and then distributed to the retailers. Cotton is shipped by planes, ships, and trucks. All of these release CO2 into the atmosphere. Even light trucks emit up to 1.15 pounds per mile (Wallander). Consumers then drive to the store to purchase bedsheets, CO2 is emitted. A 15 km round-trip releases 5-6 kg of carbon dioxide (Chase). Cars also pollute the air with nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide (UCS). Once the sheets are home with the consumer, they are used and maintained.
The use, re-use, and maintenance of sheets involve home appliances. A study found that bedsheets are washed, on average, 14 times a year (Study Finds). On the other hand, hotels likely wash them more often than that. Washing bedsheets uses up to 40 gallons of water per load (Wallander). Machine drying sheets release greenhouse gases (Chase). One average cycle in a dryer produces around 1.8 kg CO2 (Fry). Once the sheets reach the end of their life, they can either be recycled or disposed of.
If recycled, there isn’t much emissions released or wastes created. The old sheets can be donated or used in sewing and other upcycling projects. On the other hand, they could be put into a textile recycling system (Freeman) where they are shredded in industrial shredders. They then can be mixed with other fibers to make a different textile (Pierre-Louis). Similarly, the fibers can instead be spun into new yarn (LeBlanc). Many useable products are created from the bedsheets, such as industrial rags, mattress filling, insulation (LeBlanc), or even Process Engineered Fuel (Vecoplan). The cotton bedsheets are nowhere near as useful when they are tossed in the garbage.
In the waste management of fitted cotton bedsheets, they are problematic in landfills. In 2013, there was 15.1 million tons of textiles discarded in America alone. 85 percent of that ended up in landfills (Freeman). Although cotton is naturally derived from a plant and is biodegradable, it still can create tremendous amounts of pollution. When in an environment with oxygen, it can naturally break down through composting, bacteria, or other natural biological processes (Ross). However, when cotton is dumped in a landfill, it decomposes through anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion is when microorganisms break down organic matter in an environment without oxygen. In landfills, layers of trash are continuously compressed, which in turn squeezes the oxygen out of the trash below. When the cotton bedsheets in those bottom layers decompose, they produce quite a few byproducts like CO2 (Freeman). One of the most concerning byproducts is methane (Rossignol). Methane is a greenhouse gas that is dangerously stronger than carbon dioxide. It can absorb 28 times more heat than CO2 in the atmosphere, meaning it can cause a huge global warming issue (Freeman).
Decomposing organic waste, such as cotton, makes landfills the third biggest contributor of atmospheric methane in the United States (Freeman). Some landfill operators actually have gas capture systems that trap methane created by the site. This could then be utilized in combustion engines as a fuel source to provide heat or electricity. However, this method is not perfect, since the pipes holding the methane are buried in the landfill and can leak or break. Then, methane still ends up being released into the atmosphere (Rossignol). On the other hand, if bedsheets are incinerated, the dyes and chemicals used to treat them can be released into the air (Wicker). Aside from airborne wastes, Cotton bedsheets can also cause other contamination problems for landfills. The dyes and chemicals used to treat them can build up and end up leaching into nearby groundwater and soil (Rossignol). For the elastic component, it can take over 50 years to decompose naturally. If incinerated, it releases harmful, dangerous, carcinogenic pollution into the atmosphere (Reference).
The full amount of wastes and emissions created through the entire process of making fitted cotton bedsheets is a largely non-ecofriendly amount. Most people dispose of these sheets in less than a year and purchase new ones. About 72 percent of bed linens end up in landfills (Luckel). This equates to much unneeded wastes, particulate matter emissions, and greenhouse gases from bedsheets. At the end of our sheets’ lives, we should try to repurpose or recycle them, rather than tossing them in a landfill, where they would pollute the environment. It is crucial that we make a greater effort to more sustainably use bedsheets and keep them out of our landfills.
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