Speciality textile chemicals supplier CHT says it’s seen a spike in demand for formaldehyde-free binders used in textile finishing and pigment dyeing – despite some initial doubts about the effectiveness of these types of formulations. Formaldehyde-based finishes, as is the case with many chemicals used in the textile supply chain, have come under greater regulatory scrutiny, and this chemical regularly features on apparel brand RSLs, MRSLs as well as regional environmental regulations.

“Formaldehyde-free binders have many benefits, but some customers remained skeptical,” said CHT. “After all, many customers expected that the formaldehyde-free technology would lead to higher costs and adjustments in production processes. Nevertheless, in 2018 the team of CHT Germany was able to sell more than 500 tonne of formaldehyde-free binders in Germany alone.”

Despite initial doubts from both in- and outside the REACH regulated European Union, chemical firms are now moving towards a ‘greener’ approach to textile finishing – with the often-referenced rise in end consumer awareness no doubt playing a role in stronger demand for formaldehyde-free binders and other hazard free solutions, such as PFCs.

The CHT Group with its headquarters in Tübingen, Germany, says it has set the goal to become the ‘preferred partner for sustainable specialty chemicals’ all over the world. In all of its business fields its product ranges are now being ‘increasingly substituted by future-oriented, more sustainable products.’

In order to ‘future proof’ its operations, CHT says it has also been developing alternatives to a variety of traditional textile chemicals which not only meet but exceed new and existing legal regulations. “The ultimate goal of this ongoing work is to completely substitute critical substances and to develop future-oriented alternatives even if the industry has not yet the demand for such solutions,” said the company.

A key point in the fate of formaldehyde, according to CHT, was its dangerous goods classification by the European Union in 2016. While initial responses didn’t suggest any change in appetite for the naturally-occurring compound (it’s found in the single ppm range in apples and oranges), CHT set about scaling up its production of an alternative; a decision which it now believes is bearing (pardon the pun) fruit.

With 2018 sales in Germany of over 500 tonnes of formaldehyde-free binders, which adhere to Oeko-Tex 100 product class 1, in Germany alone, the company says it now sees a clear new trend for adoption.

“The successful new orientation of our binder business has strongly contributed to textile sustainability in various ways,” stated Alfons Erb, Head of Sales for Textile Auxiliaries at CHT Germany. “On the one hand, formaldehyde is persistently eliminated. Then, the concentrations allow for a lower quantity of binders in the process. Finally, resources are saved in logistics as lower volumes need to be transported.”

Through making a product which doesn’t negatively affect a buyer’s bottom line, and that, according to CHT is on average “25 per cent more effective than the former variants containing formaldehyde,” the firm imagines the shift away from binders containing formaldehyde will only accelerate.