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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - G. W!ll!kers

G. W!ll!kers, Arkville, New York


G. W!ll!kers is a family-owned manufacturer of garment-dyed children's clothing based in Arkville, NY and located within New York City's West-of-Hudson watershed. The 55-employee company has experienced a 25 percent growth rate since its inception in 1989, resulting in $3 million in annual sales. The company uses over 40 colors of dye in the manufacture of their products.

Methodologies and Procedures

G. W!ll!kers wanted to increase production without increasing its dependence on chlorine to decolor or to oxidize the color in its waste water. The company sought an alternative to its existing chlorine-based pretreatment system while at the same time explored possibilities for reducing water use and optimizing their manufacturing process.

G. W!ll!kers first approached the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC) for assistance. The CWC in turn reached out to the New York State Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a federal-state partnership program administered by Empire State Development. The MEP provides technical assistance, including environmental management assistance, to small and mid-sized manufacturers in New York State. The MEP Project Manager contacted the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for assistance from NYSERDA's Industrial Pollution Prevention Program.

With financial assistance from NYSERDA and the CWC, G. W!ll!kers conducted an on-site pilot test of a dissolved air flotation (DAF) system which successfully removed the color from the process waste water. DAF works as follows: a polymer flocculent and bentonite clay adsorption medium are added to the process water and pumped to the DAF, where the polymer/water mixture is injected with air dissolved in water; the dissolved air forces the polymer/water mixture to flocculate, aggregating the dye particles and forcing these to rise to the surface of the vessel, where they are removed as a solid sludge cake. Following the successful pilot trial of the DAF system, a full-scale system was installed and commissioned at G. W!ll!kers's facility.

In addition to installing the DAF to remove color, G. W!ll!kers instituted operational and process improvements which further reduced the volume and toxicity of their wastes. G. W!ll!kers optimized their dyeing process by converting to a hot water fiber-reactive process and by developing written standard operating procedures. The change to the hot water fiber-reactive process reduced the total amount of dye used and the number of rinses needed to completely remove excess dye from the finished clothes. The change also provided greater color accuracy which reduced the amount of errant, or scrap, textile waste. By developing written standard operating procedures, G. W!ll!kers also reduced waste and scrap generation, while improving the flow of their operations.

Through the pollution prevention and process improvement project, G. W!ll!kers completely eliminated the use of chlorine at their facility by implementing an environmentally benign and non-toxic pre-treatment system in place of the chlorine. This amounted to a savings of 3,200 gallons of chlorine annually. G. W!ll!kers also reduced its generation of scrap loads from 4 percent to less than 1 percent, which resulted in a savings of 6,336 pounds of textile waste annually.

The technologies implemented, including the DAF pretreatment system and the conversion to a hot water fiber-reactive process, are technologies that many clothing manufacturers can easily implement. The DAF process is also widely transferable to other industries, such as food and chemical manufacturers, who are seeking to remove contaminants from their process water.


Through the pollution prevention and process improvement project, G. W!ll!kers completely eliminated the use of chlorine at their facility, a savings of an average of 3,200 gallons of chlorine per year.

By converting to a hot water fiber-reactive process, G. W!ll!kers reduced their water use by up to 1.6 million gallons annually and consequently also reduced their requirements for the polymer and bentonite flocculent mixture used in the DAF. This amounted to a savings of $3,500 annually in chemical costs.

With the new DAF system, the workers no longer handled bulk chlorine or inhaled chlorine vapors.

Through their optimized process and improved pre-treatment system, G. W!ll!kers doubled their production. They added three new clothes-dyeing machines and increased production from half a year to a full year, which resulted in the addition of four new jobs.

G. W!ll!kers reduced its generation of scrap loads from 4 percent to less than 1 percent, which resulted in a savings of 6,336 pounds of textile waste per year valued at $288,000.

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