The Uses of Biology Ahh...there's nothing like lounging around in your favorite pair of jeans, reading up on some biology. It's hard to believe that annual sales of jeans like yours make up part of a $700 Billion global industry! Yup, jeans are BIG business these days. In 1999, over 200 million pairs were sold in Europe alone. In the US, jeans are an even hotter commodity, with about a dozen pairs flying off the shelves every
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This substantially reduces the quality of the products and the life of the equipment, and increases production costs. Acid washing jeans avoided some of these problems, but came with added dangers, expenses, and pollution. Environmental regulations have put intense pressure on the textiles industry to generate less pollution. Treating the wastewater and disposing of the sludge (i.e. used pumice or neutralized acid) represents a growing portion of the production costs for a pair of jeans. So what are we to do? Will we have to give up our comfortable jeans? Will prices skyrocket? Will we have to choose between fashion and the environment?
Never fear! Biology is here! A technique known as "biostoning" was introduced in Europe in 1989 and then quickly adopted in the US the following year. Biostoning relies on the action of enzymes to selectively modify the fabric surface. Enzymes have been used in the textiles industry since the turn of the century to remove starchy and waxy residues from raw materials and to give fabric a uniform finish. Global sales of enzymes used in the textiles industry reached $164.2 million in 1998 and are expected to reach $182.7 million by 2002. Genencor is one of the major producers of industrial enzymes. The enzymes