Mar. 12, 2014
Zippers are an integral part of the fashion industry. It revolutionized the way garments were made to close and fasten shut because of its ease and simplistic design. Most zippers are manufactured by the YKK Corporation in their Fastening Group division, therefore making zippers in a uniform fashion and testing them for quality control. YKK zippers are primarily made of stainless steel often coated in brass or zinc but can sometimes be completely made of plastic. These raw materials are used in almost every zipper in production today, with the exception of new zippers made from recyclable materials. These materials fo into the physical zipper itself while there are other materials and energy sources are used to manufacture and transport them around the world.
The physical components of the zipper consist of five different portions, each being made from different materials. The zipper itself is constructed of the tapes, the part of the zipper that gets sewn into a garment, the teeth, which are attached to the tapes on the inside, the slider which opens and closes the zipper with the help of an attached tab and the stops to ensure that the slider does not fall off the zipper on the top and bottom (Secrest). These components are each made of differing materials and depend heavily on what the zipper will primarily be used for, like jackets versus jeans. There are also many different styles of zippers including the metal chain, the plastic molded chain and the coil chain (All about zippers). Most zippers are either made of a combination of metals with a plastic like tape or are simply completely made of different plastics. Metal zippers are usually the most common type of zipper.
Metal zippers are essentially composed of three different metals, either together in the same zipper or simply by themselves. Stainless steel, aluminum and brass comprise most zippers regarding the teeth and sometimes the slider and tab (Secrest). Stainless steel provides the main component to these zippers and is made of iron, carbon, and chromium so that it will not oxidize as easily as other irons do (Qiu). Most stainless steel is mined from China and distributed around the world after it has been processed (Qiu). The stainless steel zippers are often coated in brass, which comes from primarily India and China, to help protect against corrosion and more rust (Arthur). Zippers can also easily be made out of aluminum, which also primarily is exported from China (Arthur). Metal zippers are used on tons of different fabrics and other garments and utilities, making them extremely common. Unfortunately, all of these metals are a non-renewable resource that may run out in the future, until a new renewable source has been found to replace it. Metal zippers can be found on jeans, purses, luggage, and jackets, yet they still rely on synthetic fabric tapes for attachment.
The tapes that attach the zippers to actual items are made out of cotton and polyester with nylon. The tapes are primarily made of cotton, a renewable resource that is completely made out of cellulose that is exported from China (Cotton). The cotton is then combined with polyester, a synthetic polymer of purified terephthalic acid, to create the tapes for the zipper teeth to be attached later (World Polyester Fiber Report 2010). Depending on the types of polyester, the tapes on the zippers could be biodegradable, and therefore be environmentally friendly (World Polyester Fiber Report 2010). The ends of the tapes are then coated and reinforced in nylon, a thermoplastic produced in China, to prevent fraying (World Nylon Trends in Demand and Supply 2008). Before the teeth are attached to the tapes, the tapes are generally machine washed, utilizing water as a renewable energy source (Arthur). While the tapes are normally made in synthetic fabrics with metal teeth and sliders attached to them, the teeth and sliders could also be made out of some form of plastic. There are also pure nylon zippers that are manufactured and primarily used in coil zippers on canvas tents and bags (All About Zippers). These resources are renewable, yet they are not particularly good for the environment as not all of them are biodegradable. Plastic zippers are usually used on jackets or bags and mainly children’s clothing, as they are slightly easier to operate given their generally larger size. They are also used on more heavy-duty clothing like outerwear jackets. In terms of manufacturing these zippers, the process of manufacturing a plastic zipper and a metal zipper are almost the same.
There are several different approaches to manufacturing zippers all requiring some sort of natural resource used in their creation. The different processes of zippers manufacturing are basically the same for metal and plastic zippers alike. The original process involves twisting the metal or plastic teeth around until it forms a Y shape and twists the zipper together (Secrest). A different process melts the metals and plastic and places them in a mold when the materials are in a liquid state and then put together (Friedel). Neither of these processes was explicitly explained in any of the articles that reported the process by which the manufacturing happens. Given that the first process is machine driven and the second involves a large amount of heat, it is an easy inference to suggest that the machines involved in these processes require energy in some form. There must be some sort of heat energy source, most likely involving coal, crude oil or electricity, in order to heat the metal and plastic to melt. The sources that explained the manufacturing process noted that the molds must be cooled in some way once the mold would set (Friedel). Therefore, it would be logical to have some sort of cooling device involved in the process, most likely a renewable water source. Similarly to the manufacturing processes, the transportation methods were also made upon inferences.
The transportation methods for the major zipper distributor, the YKK Corporation, were difficult to find, but eventually the information that was provided led to the inferences of an energy source being needed. The company mostly uses freight carriers and trucks to distribute their zippers to different clothing factories around the world (Ykk Snap Fasteners America Inc). Most freight carriers require some sort of energy source to travel, just like other freight trucks. Therefore, the raw materials involved in the transportation and distribution aspect to the product cycle involves crude oil or coal. While these raw materials aren’t physically embodied inside the zippers themselves, it seemed necessary to include as the oil is an integral part in a zippers manufacturing and its distribution.
The main company in the world that produces zippers is the YKK Group, a Japanese company founded in 1934. This specific company has a monopoly in the zipper production for the entire world, operating 109 factories in 71 different countries (CORPORATE PROFILE: YKK GROUP). Not only do they specialize in fastening equipment, but they also create new architectural designs and windows. Since zippers are a necessity to many different textiles, clothing, and other product designs, YKK produces zippers for all kinds of needs. There are over thousands of types of zippers, all sold by YKK and distributed all over the world. The YKK Group has dominated the zipper market for many years and became environmentally conscious approximately 20 years ago.
In 1994, the YKK Corporation pledged to be more environmentally aware of their businesses. The Corporation proclaimed a statement that it tries to uphold through all aspects of their business. The statement was:
It is recognized today as being a most important duty for all humankind that we preserve the abundantly endowed global environment and that we transfer it to the next generation in a sound condition. Striving to be an earth-friendly company, the YKK Group proclaims that it will address and promote 'harmony with the environment' as the highest priority of its business activities. (OUR APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES: YKK GROUP)
In plain terms this means that the company wants to leave the planet in good condition for future generations by recognizing the need to be environmentally aware of their businesses actions. Since this proclamation, YKK has become much more environmentally conscious, recycling and reusing their defective tapes among other environmental changes (CORPORATE PROFILE : YKK GROUP). Their rigorous quality control tests allow them to produce the highest quality products possible while also allowing them to completely find the ineffective zippers and recycle their tapes. This pledge has been implemented for the last 20 years, which has ultimately led to the company inventing new fastening products out of new materials.
The YKK Group has recently begun to produce zippers out of recycled objects. Specifically, the one product that has revolutionized the recycling of materials is YKK’s own Natulon brand. The Natulon zipper and other related products have transformed the way zippers are manufactured. The Natulon line of products reduces the amount of crude oil and electricity that is put into the manufacturing of zippers normally, while also utilizing recycled materials and chemicals to produce these environmentally safe products (NATULON®). The materials that these zippers employ the most of is recycled PET in plastic bottles and recycled fabrics, fibers and similar materials (NATULON®). YKK no longer needs to produce zippers with non-renewable materials seeing as manufacturing recycled zippers is much more in line with following their environmental pledge. By making these zippers out of recycled materials and chemicals, the Natulon product line is perpetually recyclable. This is extremely different from the metal and plastic zippers that YKK still produces.
From the many sources that our group has gathered information from, all of them talk about how zippers are not usually recycled. They are usually re-used in other garments or repurposed into crafty items. When garments are recycled, only the fabrics are actually recycled, the zippers and buttons are stripped off (Textiles, Common Wastes & Materials). In regards to what large recycling companies do with these zippers, there were no resources our group could find on whether or not they needed any extra sort of material in order to recycle them. In the event that these zippers are recycled and re-used in other garments, they would most likely need to be dyed to match the color of the garment that the zipper would be attached to. In that case, a new material, the dye, would be added to the composition of the zipper. Of course this is only an inference, as there are not many sources explaining how zippers specifically get recycled.
In terms of the groups sleuthing to find out the truth about how zippers are manufactured, it was difficult to find information on the outer levels. Zippers are not the easiest product to research, yet once we delved into the topic, we were able to find enough information to formulate its life cycle. In terms of finding information about the materials of a zipper, each type of zipper was made of a specific material that was easily traceable in terms of where it was from and how it was formed and used in the zipper itself. The only real difficult aspect of finding the materials information was the information on what happens at the end of a zippers life. It was difficult to find out how it was recycled, if it was recycled, and if it was if it had any material added to it to change its composition in any way. Ultimately, our group found the information necessary to figure out a zippers life cycle.
The materials involved in making zippers are useful in that there is an enormous array of what zippers can be made out of. They can be made completely of plastic or of some metal and some plastics. Neither of these materials is completely recyclable or biodegradable but fortunately, YKK has come up with a new way of creating zippers from recycled materials with their Natulon line of fastening products. Ultimately, using recycled bottles as a material source makes YKK’s business more sustainable, leading to less energy usage and less waste. As time progresses, more zippers will be made in an environmentally friendly way and from recycled materials so the industry will become even more green.
"All About Zippers - Zipper Materials." Zippersource. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Arthur, Tony. "Copy of The Life Cycle of a Zipper." Prezi.com. N.p., 4 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
"CORPORATE PROFILE : YKK GROUP." CORPORATE PROFILE : YKK GROUP. YKK Corporation, 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
"Cotton." Natural Fibres. FAO, 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Friedel, Robert D. Zipper: An Exploration in Novelty. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
"NATULON®." YKK FASTENING PRODUCTS GROUP. YKK Corporation, 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
"OUR APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVITIES : YKK GROUP." YKK.com. YKK Corporation, 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Qiu, Jianhai. "Stainless Steels and Alloys: Why They Resist Corrosion and How They Fail."Corrosion Special Topical Papers. N.p., 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
Secrest, Rose. "How Products Are Made." How Zipper Is Made. Advameg, 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
"Textiles, Common Wastes & Materials." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
"World Nylon Trends in Demand and Supply 2008." Market Research. N.p., 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"World Polyester Fiber Report 2010." Yarns and Fibers. Centerac Industries, 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
"Ykk Snap Fasteners America Inc." Find the Data. Find the Best Inc., 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
DES 40 A
Embodied Energy of Zippers
When it comes to textiles and fashion there is a huge industry that is constantly changing. There are a lot of things that are required for the industry to function. There are so many components that go into the making of even a single piece of clothing. The most prevalent factors that it takes to keep this industry going are the energy required to make a product, and the materials that form the base of the product itself. As a designer it is important to be aware it these factors and to take them into consideration of future designs. So, to be a good fashion designer it would be important to look at the embodied energy of different portions of the clothing and textile industry to try to get an idea of what it takes to make these products. Embodied energy is defined as “the energy used during the entire life cycle of a product including the energy used for manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of the product” (Building Energy Data Book). Now, it would be ludicrous to try to discover the embodied energy of the whole clothing industry. After all, that could expand from clothes, to buttons, to textiles, and everything in between. To try to narrow it down, the question popped up, what components of clothes are more prevalent than others?
The obvious answer would be fabrics. That would allow a look into cloth, but also the whole textile industry. There are also so many different kinds of cloth, both natural and synthetic, that it would be almost impossible to illustrate the embodied energy of them all. So, to narrow it down even further it was decided that zippers would be a good compromise. Though they are not made of fabric, they do have cloth components. Zippers are present on nearly every pair of pants, most skirts, are featured prevalently on jackets, and even sometimes, shirts. Invented in 1911 by Gideon Sundback, the zipper, originally called “The Hookless Fastener” was a revolution to the word of clothing design (Kennedy). They are relevant enough to the topic without being too broad of a subject matter to be effective. Exploring zippers will give a perspective on just how much energy it takes to make just a small piece of an article of clothing that is often taken for granted. This common staple of clothing could prove a striking realization for any future designer that looks into just what it takes to make zippers, let alone complicated articles of clothing.
First off, in order to judge how much energy it takes to make a zipper if is best to look at how much energy it takes to get the raw materials for a zipper. The base metals that zippers are made out of are aluminum, steel, copper, and sometimes a nickel alloy. The fibers typically used in the cloth part of zippers are polyester and nylon.
It takes a lot of energy to produce the metals that it takes to make zippers. Starting with Aluminum, it takes 11.35-17MJ to produce 1 kilogram of aluminum. This number is only for 100% recycled aluminum. The numbers for aluminum on its own was illusive because aluminum is an increasingly rare material. For steel it takes 6-15MJ for 1 kg of steel. This number is only accounting for recycled steel. Next for steel that comes straight from iron with no recycling involved the number is more like 20-50MJ. With nickel, that number increases drastically. It takes 230-270MJ to produce 1 kg of nickel. This is why it is least common of the three. It takes far more energy for nickel that is why it is generally mixed in an alloy, because the metal on its own is much more costly when it comes to the embodied energy of production. For copper, the number is 60-125MJ per kilogram (Low-tech Magazine). To contextualize these numbers, the YKK group uses 126,043 tons of aluminum a year to make zippers, as well as, 12,109t of copper, and 1,058t of recycled copper. Just think, there are 907.18 Kilograms in a ton. So, if there are 17MJ used to make a kilogram of aluminum, and there are 907.18 kg in a ton, and they use 126,043 tons of just aluminum, then that means that it takes 6,724,764.76MJ of energy to supply the metal for their zippers. That is for just aluminum; imagine how high that number would be if both types of copper were added in.
Polyester and nylon are the two main components that make up the siding of zippers. The polyester is the main component whereas nylon is used as siding to prevent fraying. For the nylon, it takes an incredible 3,886 MJ of energy to make just 25 yards of fabric. For polyester it takes 2,466 MJ for the same amount (O Ecotextiles). It may seem that zippers don’t use that much fabric, after all, 25 yards is enough to cover a couch, but when you consider that the YKK Company, a leading manufacturer of zippers makes 7.2 billion zippers a year, the amount of fabric and energy really add up (Fulford).
Though zippers are made out of many different products, most zippers, over fifty percent are made by the same company. When it comes to looking at the energy used by the factories in the actual production phase it made sense to find the most applicable source of information. The YKK group of Japan is responsible for most of the world’s supply of zippers (Fulford). This limited the scope of the search quite a bit. The smaller scale of research provided by picking one company allows for extended amounts of information on one major corporation as opposed to trying finding more varied and less pertinent information of a more shallow nature on an abundance of companies.
Fortunately for my research, YKK is very forthcoming with the information of how much energy it takes to operate their business and factories. YKK has over 250 factories in over 70 countries, so this company uses a lot of energy (McLaren). On a purely power based level, the amount of power that YKK uses is astronomical. They use 499.65 million kWh of electricity a year to power their factories. They obtain this energy by purchasing it from the power companies (YKK 1). This means that they produce none of their own power with any alternative forms of energy.
This company is highly conscious about the enormity of their energy use. Since the suspension of nuclear power caused by an earthquake, power in Japan has been in short supply. The short supply of energy coupled with their ever-constant environmental awareness lead to an effort to improve energy efficiency. In order to keep track of their energy use they have installed an emission volume control system to measure if energy is being wasted or not. This allows the company to identify problem areas and try to decrease their energy and ,𝐶𝑂-2. outputs (YKK 2).
Recently, in an attempt to combat their high energy usage they have, in partnership with Fujitsu, Jointly Develop Factory Energy Management System (FEMS). “The new FEMS enables visualization of energy consumption by attaching power sensors to each piece of production equipment, such as the melting furnace, and collecting real-time data from each sensor in one-minute increments. In addition to enabling the identification and replication of manufacturing best practices by comparing and analyzing manufacturing conditions at each plant, resulting in reduced energy consumption, the use of the FEMS has also led to improvements in manufacturing quality and efficiency in the fastener production process.” It has been implemented in the company's Metal Materials Manufacturing Division, a portion of the company that has caused 25% of their energy use (Fujitsu). This attempt to lower their energy use is just one step of many that this energy-conscious company is trying to implement to make their huge company more eco-friendly.
The next resource that YKK uses that contributes to the embodied energy of their zippers is an exorbitant amount of is water. They use 17.74 million cubic meters of water in their production (YKK 1). This does not include the water that is reused. While it is commendable that they reuse a portion of the water, this number is still incredibly high when you consider that it is used in the pursuit of making zippers. The YKK group does try to get the best use out of their water. In 2012 YKK introduced a heat-pump air conditioning system that uses groundwater to function. This system uses available water from the Kurobe River. This system circulates the water underground instead of pumping the water out of the ground. This system is estimated to cut the energy use of a traditional air conditioner in half (YKK 2).
YKK’s use of fuel as energy applies both for their factories and the transportation of their goods from factories to their final destination in the manufacturing process. For fuel they use heavy oil, kerosene, gasoline, gas, and light oil with an energy equivalent of 1,501 TJ per year to run their factories and transport their zippers (YKK 1). Since they have factories in so many countries throughout the world it is reasonable to infer that their transportation costs and energy expenditure are less than other companies that ship internationally. After all, if they only had factories at their home base in Japan then they would have to ship their zippers much farther to appease their international clientele.
As for recycling and waste there seems to be no information available regarding how much energy is used in the breakdown of zippers. To the best of my knowledge zippers are not recyclable. Any information that I have found says that zippers are reused for other articles of clothing, not recycled. I could not however find any information beyond that. Some people use zippers in craft projects instead of throwing them away. These forms of disposal have no energy impact that falls into the system of embodied energy.
There are however those who just throw away clothing, and on their clothing zippers, instead of donating them. There was no information available as to how much energy and resources this wasted, but once again YKK is trying to make the entire lifecycle of their zippers as green as possible. In an attempt to contribute to recycling they now make a zipper called the Natulon Zipper. This zipper is made from recycled PET polyester and plastics from recycled bottles. There is also the ReEarth Zipper which is biodegradable. Made from corn and plant material, it is said to biodegrade in about 140 days (McLaren). These were made in an attempt to counteract landfill waste of those who would throw away a zipper instead of having it repurposed.
There are a lot of steps that are involved in making a zipper. From extracting the raw materials from the ground to getting the raw materials to the factory, everything has a cost. The manufacturing of the product and the distribution of the product have an energy consequence that is massive and hard to ignore. Waste management always has a toll, even though zippers are a better product than most when it comes to durability, reuse, and upcycling that keeps it out of landfills. The total of the embodied energy of zippers is immense. Even though the company behind most of the words zipper production attempts to be as energy efficient as possible, any company of that size is bound to have an energy expenditure of astronomical proportions.
It is however heartening that YKK Zippers has an energy efficiency mission statement that is attempting to keep the production green and the Earth clean for future generations. It reads, “It is recognized today as being a most important duty for all humankind that we preserve the abundantly endowed global environment and that we transfer it to the next generation in a sound condition. Striving to be an earth-friendly company, the YKK Group proclaims that it will address and promote 'harmony with the environment' as the highest priority of its business activities” (YKK2). This attempt to try to keep a massive company as green as possible should be emulated by many other companies. Fortunately, YKK is very open about the energy that they expend because they are trying ever harder to make their numbers go down and their impact lessened. The production of zippers is fascinating and surprisingly ecologically friendly. Though the embodied energy of zipper production is high, I believe that it is the large scale of the operation, and the sheer number of zippers in use every day that make this product as much of a consumer of energy as it is. Zippers are fundamental to modern clothing structure. It is very informative to look at how big of an impact such a small product can really make.
"Buildings Energy Data Book." Buildings Energy Data Book. U.S. Department of Energy, Mar. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/TableView.aspx?table=Notes>.
"Fujitsu and YKK Jointly Develop Factory Energy Management System (FEMS)." Fujitsu Global. N.p., 25 June 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.fujitsu.com/global/news/pr/archives/month/2012/20120625-02.html>.
Fulford, Benjamin. "Zipping Up the World." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Nov. 2003. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/global/2003/1124/089.html>.
Kennedy, Pagan. "Who Made That ZIpper." The NY Times. N.p., 8 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
"LOW-TECH MAGAZINE." 'LOW-TECH MAGAZINE' N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/what-is-the-embodied-energy-of-materials.html>.
McLaren, Warren. "YKK Recycled and Biodegradable Zippers." TreeHugger. N.p., 2 May 2008. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.treehugger.com/green-architecture/ykk-recycled-and-biodegradable-zippers.html>.
"What Is the Energy Profile of the Textile Industry?" O ECOTEXTILES. N.p., 16 June 2009. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/what-is-the-energy-profile-of-the-textile-industry/>.
YKK 1. Environmental Management. Digital image. YKK.com. YKK, n.d. Web. <http://www.ykk.com/english/corporate/eco/report/2013/pdf/13ED04-06.pdf>.
YKK 2. Social & Environmental Report 2013. Digital image. YKK.com. YKK Group, n.d. Web. 13 Mar. 2014. <http://www.ykk.com/english/corporate/eco/report/2013/pdf/13EALL.pdf>.
DES 40 A
13 March 2014
Wastes and Emissions Of A Zipper
It seems almost unimaginable to have a closet full of clothes that do not have zippers. Zippers are vital closure to jacket, jeans, and other very popular and common pieces of apparel. Surprisingly, there is little to no information about the life cycle of the zipper on the Internet. There are small numbers of books about it, but the topics are usually about how to sew them onto clothes. The zipper is such a revolutionary invention and it is astonishing to only see vague information on how it is made and its history. Although it is a small and simple closure that we take for granted, the human population have grown to be dependent on it. About seven billion zippers are produced annually by YKK Group, the largest zipper manufacturer, not including smaller Chinese manufacturers (Fulford, 2003). This must mean manufacturers produce zippers on a large scale. Throughout the zipper’s life cycle from mines, refineries, and plants that extract and process raw materials to factories manufacturing zippers, there are large quantities of wastes and emissions that are generated and are hazardous to the environment. Although certain wastes are claimed to be recycled, it is not nearly enough to compensate for the wastes that are released into nearby ecosystems and the atmosphere. In order to understand and record every waste that is produced in the life cycle, the zipper must be taken apart to its raw materials, manufacturing, and transportation.
The most popular metal used for zippers is aluminum. The zipper consists of metal teeth, which are tiny protruding blocks embedded along two rows that interlock. Aluminum is an unstable compound that must be extracted (“Alumina”). The process of producing aluminum requires the raw material bauxite. When mining the bauxite ores, there is a process called beneficiation. Beneficiation is a number of processes where the extracted ore is separated into minerals and waste (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014). Processes include: grinding and crushing the ores. Water is added to decrease the amount of dust from grinding and crushing. The water is drained and this runoff is wastewater. Fortunately, wastewater from bauxite mines is treated. After beneficiation, lime is added to the water for neutralization and then expelled into nearby streams. These are the only few examples of wastes being treated.
Bauxite refineries are usually located in Africa, South America and Jamaica. Most bauxite refineries in United States are in Arkansas. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has studied and confirmed that these bauxite refineries emit a tremendous amount of waste. They have concluded that, “the refinery processes generate about one ton of solid waste during the production of a ton of aluminum (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014).” One would assume that this is the total amount of waste that is emitted during the production of aluminum, but the refineries are the beginning stages of creating aluminum. They only produce alumina or A12O3 from bauxite ore, which is an oxide that is necessary to make aluminum metal (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014).
These refineries produce different types of wastes, such as waste “mud”, waste rocks, and other miscellaneous solid waste. The goal is to extract the alumina from the bauxite ore. In the smelter, the dried bauxite is mixed with hot corrosive solvent, which separates alumina from the bauxite. What is left from the melted bauxite is a residue called “red mud” (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014). These are taken to tailings, or mine dumps, which are areas where useless or valueless fractions from mining are placed. These tailings are near plants, where the “red mud” can be processed again and become aluminum oxide. EPA recorded that “the impoundments that receive the muds typically have surface areas between 45 and 105 hectares, ranging from 10 hectares to almost 1,300 hectares (EPA90). The depth of the impoundments range from 1 to 16 meters, with an average impoundment depth of 7 meters. The quantity of muds accumulated on site at five facilities studied ranged from 500,000 to 22 million MT, with an average of 9.7 million MT per facility (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014).” The wastes of smelting bauxite to extract alumina are in great numbers and take up much space in mining dumps.
The brown and red muds have no known secondary uses and are very corrosive to organic materials. Both muds have a large amount of calcium, iron, and sodium. They also have some traces of certain elements such as cadmium, boron, barium, chromium, gallium, cobalt, scandium, vanadium and lead (“Aluminum Production Wastes” 2014). They also are known to have radioactive emissions with low levels of uranium, radium, and thorium.
Once alumina is extracted, it is combined with electricity to create aluminum. The electricity processes the alumina to become aluminum metal and the waste emission of carbon dioxide (“Alumina”). This completes the process of creating aluminum along with producing radioactive wastes that are left in larges tanks in tailings and carbon dioxide emissions.
Besides aluminum, stainless steel is a popular and a stronger metal used in making zippers. The production in waste of making stainless steel is rather large. Many environmentalists are concerned about the amount of gases that are released into the atmosphere from the steel facilities.
Using extreme heat releases gas and vapors, which are considered waste emissions. Limestone, coal, and iron ore are the basic raw materials that make stainless steel. Each raw material undergoes its own major process units before they are chemically mixed together in the blast furnace. For example, coal must go to the coke plant before it goes into the blast furnace with the other materials. The coke plants will turn the coal into coke, by thermal distillation in coke oven batteries. Coke is necessary to fuel the blast furnace, and the emissions are recoverable. Unfortunately many coke plants do not have recovery- coke oven batteries. The emissions are not reused. Instead, they are released to the atmosphere as green house gas. Once the raw materials finish their own chemical transformation, they are put in the blast furnace. This furnace produces tremendous amount of carbon dioxide waste and occasionally carbon monoxide ("Available and Emerging” 2012).
Jumping ahead in the process, the stainless steel must proceed into annealing. This is a heat treatment that softens the metal. Depending on the strength of the steel, the temperature for the heat treatment must be precise. After this process, a scale will form on the steel, which is an unwanted build-up. There are many ways to descale steel, but pickling and acid baths are most common. The scales are solid waste and are either picked away physically or corroded away chemically (“How Stainless Steel”).
The metal teeth require strips of fabric to be embedded in. This fabric is called tape, and it is usually made from polyester. There is a high demand due to the desirable characteristic of being cheap and quickly produced. The numerous processes to make this synthetic fabric require high temperature to melt or chemically mix compounds, such as dimethyl terephthalate and ethylene glycol (“Polyester Production Pollution”). These plants that create polyester uses large amounts of energy and crude oil that release carbon dioxide and hydrogen chloride.
Gas emissions are not the only harm waste that is released into the environment; untreated wastewater is released into to streams. This wastewater contains byproducts and other remnants, such as solvents, heavy metals, chlorine, and monomers (“Polyester Production Pollution”). Once the polyester is melted and rolled into fabric, it can be dyed into desired colors for market. The remaining dyes that did not seep into the polyester are also in this water. Dyes can a terribly damage the ecosystem that the body of water serves.
When it comes to manufacturing, there is scarce information about the waste production. Aluminum metal is turned into strips of wire. These strips of wires and the strips of polyester or cotton are inserted in a machine called “teeth machine” (“How Zippers Are Made”). This machine cuts the aluminum strips into small teeth and embeds them into the strips of fabric. Every piece of metal and fabric are used in this process. This machine produces a continuous zipper.
The long strip of zipper undergoes a cleaning process. The zippers are washed and water that is used is recycled and occasionally drained. Although the water cleans the zippers, toxic chemicals do not contaminate it (“How Zippers Are Made”). Once it is cleaned, the teeth of the zippers are perfected. More solid waste is produced as the imperfections of the teeth are fixed and excess bits of aluminum are cut off
Then the zipper is measured into smaller sections. At each end of the section, a group of teeth that are about four centimeters long are pulled out. These aluminum bits are waste that are either disposed of or recycled for other uses. Soon these empty gaps are cut in half to separate each section into smaller zippers. Once cut, the remainders of the polyester or cotton strips hanging from the ends of the sections are cut off for a cleaner look. The cut fabric strips are also categorized as solid wastes and are thrown away (“How Zippers Are Made”). YKK Group is the only company known to recycle the cut fabric tapes for other purposes (“YKK Group Social” 2).
The only helpful references that have been found are resources given by YKK Group. YKK Group is the largest and the most famous company that manufactures zippers. This organization is located in seventy-one countries. Knowing that YKK is responsible for manufacturing nearly ninety percent of the zippers used in the world shows that referencing the manufacturing processes and waste from this company is very reliable. In YKK Social and Environmental Report of 2013, they calculated the number of gas emissions, solid waste, water waste, and wastes that were able to be recycled that year. Although it is not clear how these wastes were produced, there were no resources that can give a better estimation of waste produced from zipper manufacturing. The output of carbon dioxide emission was three hundred- and- ninety three thousand tons. Nitrogen oxide emissions were fifty-eight tons. Sulfur oxide totaled to thirty tons. Wastewater was calculated to be thirteen and a half million cubic meters. Eighty-eight thousand and nine hundred and sixty-two tons of wastes were disposed. Finally, eighty- seven thousand and eight hundred and thirty four tons of wastes were recycled (“YKK Group Social” 1). This does not only include manufacturing, transportation as well.
Unfortunately there was no information found about the transportation aspect during the lifecycle. Only inferences can be made about the wastes and emissions. Most raw materials are transported with trucks. From mining to refineries to production, aluminum goes to multiple areas. This suggests that transportation is used frequently. It also suggests that airplanes are needed since there are only few countries that mine bauxite. If steel were used for the teeth rather than aluminum, transportation would be necessary since it must be processed through multiple plants.
Trucks should be the primary use of transportation when delivering the finished goods to buyers. Since YKK Group is the leading zipper manufacturer and has many plants located around the world; it is more practical to send products by truck rather than by airplane. Although there are not specific sources that explain the gases emitted from trucks that solely deliver zipper, there are many articles that delve into the emissions of any delivery truck. The use of large trucks affects the climate. The fumes from large truck are increasing the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. Trucks release an excess of carbon dioxide, as well as nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide (Fuglestvedt et al., 454). Although this article generalizes the use of all trucks carrying any kind of merchandise, one could only imagine how many trucks are used to deliver zippers to garment industries, stores, or other factories.
With the amount of waste and emissions that are release from a life cycle of a zipper, it is surprising that there has not been a single article that is exclusively about zipper waste production. Even if the Internet had little to say, the library had absolutely none. The zipper is such a simple invention that requires only fabric and metal. Although the number of materials that make a zipper is small, the production size is not. The waste products and unwanted byproducts that are created during the life cycle are tremendous. The mines, refineries, plants, factories, and type of transportation are already affecting the atmosphere and the local ecosystem causing degradation in water and wildlife and the atmosphere. People must pay attention to the wastes created by large industries such as zipper manufacturing, or the affects may become permanent and irreversible.
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