Date of this Version
Published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research 20 (2013), pp. 6085–6095; doi: 10.1007/s11356-013-1601-5
An environmentally friendly and inexpensive substitute to the widely used poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) has been developed from soy proteins for textile warp sizing. Textile processing is the major source of industrial water pollution across the world, and sizing and desizing operations account for nearly 30 % of the water consumed in a textile plant. PVA is one of the most common sizing agents used for synthetic fibers and their blends due to PVA’s easy water solubility and ability to provide desired sizing performance. However, PVA does not degrade and is a major contributor to pollution in textile effluent treatment plants. Although considerable efforts have been made to replace PVA with biodegradable sizing materials, the performance properties provided by PVA on synthetic fibers and their blends have been unmatched so far. Soy proteins are inexpensive, biodegradable, and have been widely studied for potential use in food packaging, as resins and adhesives. In this research, the potential of using soy proteins as textile sizing agents to replace PVA was studied. Polyester and polyester/cotton rovings, yarns, and fabrics sized with soy protein showed a considerably better improvement in strength and abrasion resistance compared to commercially available PVA-based size. Soy protein size had a 5-day biochemical oxygen demand / chemical oxygen demand ratio of 0.57 compared to 0.01 for PVA indicating that soy protein sizes were easily biodegradable in activated sludge. The total and ammonia nitrogen released from the proteins also did not adversely impact the biodegradability. Good sizing performance and easy biodegradability demonstrate that soy protein-based sizes have potential to replace PVA-based sizes leading to substantial benefits to the textile industry and the environment.