Understanding ZDHC & MRSL. Free ZDHC program certificate for textile companies.

MRSL: Manufacturing restricted substances list.

It consists of 11 priority chemical groups. 

ZDHC: Zero discharge of hazardous chemicals programme.

This programme consists of ZDHC technical advisory committee + signatory brands + third party chemical experts

Levi's, H&M, Nike, Burberry, Gap, Mark's & Spencer are some of the ZDHC certified brands.

In textiles hazardous substances are present in every step:

  1. Chemical formulations
  2. Processing of fabric
  3. Finished products

Intentional use of these hazardous substances should be avoided.

These substances can be classified by CAS number or CI. CAS stand for chemical abstract service & CI for the colour index.

MRSL for textiles

A detailed table of these substances could be shared on request.

To understand it, this table has 5 columns. Column1 for CAS number, column 2 for substance, column 3 for limit (limit of hazardous chemicals varies from 1-1000 ppm), column 4 for usage, column 5 for analysis (gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, HPLC etc).

For better understanding, we will take only 2 columns, namely substance & usage.


Greenpeace: dirty laundry 2009

Greenpeace report has closely studied China's 2 textile manufacturing plants.

  1. The Youngor Textile Complex, located on the Yangtze river delta 
  2. Well Dyeing factory limited, located on a tributary of the Pearl River delta.

Hazardous and persistent chemicals with hormone-disrupting properties were found in the samples from these rivers. Chemicals including

  1. nonylphenol
  2. perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulphonate
  3. heavy metals

Were found in these rivers.

Persistent chemicals are chemicals that do not break down easily into simpler forms.

The Greenpeace report gives a general division of Global North and Global South continents and countries.

Europe and North America are classified into Global North. Russia, China, South America and South Africa are classified into Global South.

Companies like Abercrombie and Fitch, Adidas, Bauer Hockey, Calvin Klein, Converse, Cortefiel, H&M, Lacoste, Li Ning, Meters/bonwe, Nike, PVH, Puma and Youngor have their manufacturing plants in Global south countries.

The industrial discharge does not only contain hazardous substances but bioaccumulative, carcinogenic and reprotoxic substances. Bioaccumulative substances are those substances that build up in the food chain and are ingested by organisms.

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This may seem a local problem to the countries like China. But it is not. These hazardous chemicals are transferred by ocean currents, atmospheric deposition and food chain to even polar regions, therefore the problem is global.

70% of China's rivers are already affected by pollutants. 20% of this is industry discharge. While the textile industry contributes to 7.6 % of China's total trade volume.

The current approach of:

  • Wastewater treatment plants
  • Ambient quality standards
  • Limits on certain effluents

Is not working. The hazardous chemicals remain in sludge from wastewater treatment plants.

What's the solution?

So, it is a corporate social responsibility or CSR of textile companies to ensure a safe future for generations to come.

Dow Jones sustainability index recognizes Nike, Adidas, Puma and PVH as leaders in sustainability issues. These brands should come forward and lead the way for other textile companies.

Government can also help. it can implement pollutant release and transfer register. Which will provide publicly available data on discharge emissions and losses of hazardous substances.

The ZDHC certificate for textile companies

If you want a certificate for the ZDHC program, then please write to us at [email protected]

We will give a test on ZDHC and MRSL. On passing this test on ZDHC, we will certify your organization as ZDHC.

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