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THE TRUTH ABOUT COTTON

Dangerous process

Processing cotton into cloth also presents serious environmental problems. Various toxic bleaching, dying and wrinkle-reducing agents (such as formaldehyde) add to the pollution and health risks. Organically processed cotton is washed and softened with citric acid and soap and water, not chemical washes. No chemical bleaching is done, although hydrogen peroxide can be used as a whitening agent (it degrades rapidly into water and oxygen). Shirts are dyed withlow-impact dyes which do not use the traditional metallic compounds.

According to Gary Oldham of SOS Cotton, the purchase of just one t-shirt eliminates the use of approximately 4 ounces of concentrated pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers - about 50% of the weight of a finished 8-ounce shirt!

But the shirt is only half of the problem.

Presently, almost all screen printing is done with plastisol, a complex mixture of vinyl resin, a plasticizer and one or more pigments. Plastisol is not biodegradable and screen printing generates waste ink which contains solid hazardous materials, creating disposal problems. Fusion or "setting" of freshly printed plastisol into a dried film requires exposure of the fabric to temperatures exceeding 300 degrees Fahrenheit, consuming precious energy.A new (ink) solution

When Shari Shiffrin of High Cotton was pregnant, she began looking for a more environmentally safe method of t-shirt printing. "I was around all these chemicals all day and I was worried what sort of effect that might have on my baby," she explains. "I started to look around for a safer way to print t-shirts, but there really wasn't a safe alternative at the time. So we developed Planet Ink."

Planet Ink is a natural, vegetable-based screen printing ink that is free of hazardous materials andcan be air dried or "set" at room temperatures. Its manufacture, use and disposal avoid senvironmental contamination and saves thermal energy. It consists mainly of water and naturally occurring colloidal polysaccharides with added binders from renewable plant and mineral sources.This process has no harmful effects on the printer, wearer or the environment. It remains colorfastt hrough bleaching, scouring and detergent washings. T-shirts printed with this process can also bedirectly ironed.

Written by: Kari Gray


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