Ocean Lanka: Weaving a Sustainable Future Beyond Fabric

Ocean Lanka invested in installing solar power at its Malwana Facility in the Biyagama Exporter Processing Zone

MALWANA, Sri Lanka — November 29, 2023 — From a commitment to sustainable waste management, the transition to renewable energy and environmental protection, the phrase “sustainable manufacturing” is not unfamiliar to Ocean Lanka.

Founded in 1996, the Company, which has been in operation for over twenty years, is not only Sri Lanka’s largest weft-knitted fabric manufacturer but is also the first within the textile and apparel industry of Sri Lanka to enter into a system partnership with Bluesign®. Working with international brands, the Company has maintained a steadfast commitment to environmental responsibility. The rhythmic hum of looms within the facility not only symbolizes craftsmanship, but also signifies Ocean Lanka’s dedication to providing a sustainable model for many industries worldwide. Partnering with certification bodies like the Global Organic Textile Standard, Better Cotton Initiative and Global Recycled Standard, the Company has initiatives set out for water and energy management as well as biomass consumption by over 3 percent in its operations over the next five years.

Ocean Lanka’s Holistic Approach to Waste Management

In an industry that generates over 92 million tonnes of waste annually, Ocean Lanka’s journey toward circularity begins at the point of waste generation. The facility employs a comprehensive waste categorization system for eleven main areas in accordance with strict guidelines. Generating 275,00 kilogrammes of fabric waste annually, when the volume surpasses the storage capacity, the administrative team initiates an auction for registered waste fabric buyers listed with Ocean Lanka. The entire lot is then sold to the highest bidder as is excess cardboard, paper and polythene. “Before exceeding the capacity, the team needs to consider the time required for calling tenders and selling to prevent the overflow of fabric,” says Compliance Manager Anuruddha Weerasekera.  “Additionally, the team must ensure that suppliers have the necessary licenses for fabric disposal. They are also responsible for maintaining a record of waste fabric disposal within the facility, summarizing the information monthly in terms of weight in kilograms.”

Ocean Lanka’s Innovative Water Conservation Efforts

Ocean Lanka, in collaboration with the Open University of Sri Lanka, is actively working on developing eco-friendly technologies and innovative processes to reduce or recycle wastewater from dyeing operations. The facility currently consumes 7,000 cubic meters of water daily for the fabric dyeing process, posing a significant financial burden. At times, the existing effluent treatment facility struggles to adequately handle the wastewater from the dyeing department.

Effluent Treatment Plant at Ocean Lanka

Notes Weerasekera: “We are exploring practical approaches that can be employed for textile wastewater treatment and reuse, aiming to conserve water resources and minimize pollution discharged into the environment. One option we are considering is the reuse of textile pretreatment liquor or wash liquor in the scouring and bleaching of cotton fabric.”

Pioneering Sustainability Initiatives in Energy Conservation and Renewable Resources

Aligning with its goals to reduce water, electricity and biomass consumption, Ocean Lanka has also embarked on several energy conservation projects initiated in 2019, demonstrating significant progress. This includes transitioning from CFL to LED lamps and enhancing boiler systems for more efficient biomass energy production. The Company has also invested half a billion Rupees in installing solar power at its Malwana Facility in the Biyagama Exporter Processing Zone, covering 250,000 square feet and generating 3,800 units per 1 MW daily. This ambitious initiative aims not only to harness solar energy for efficient power generation but also to establish a sustainable financial model over twenty years.

Over one thousand hectares in Opatha Estate, Ratnapura dedicated to sustainable fuelwood harvesting

Efforts are also being made towards sustainable fuelwood cultivation to meet thermal energy requirements. Over one thousand hectares in Opatha Estate, Ratnapura will be dedicated to cultivating a special species of bamboo and Gliricidia Sepium to supply 100 MT of firewood annually. This will meet Ocean Lanka’s fuelwood demand. “We don’t want to depend on external sources for firewood to fuel our biomass boilers,” explains Weerasekera.  “Cultivating our own firewood not only enhances traceability in our raw material sources but also benefits the community and the environment. We collaborate with smallholders in the estate to produce bamboo and purchase it from them. So, it’s a win-win for all.”

Beyond Factory Walls: Ocean Lanka’s GHG Policy

Ocean Lanka not only invests in operational sustainability but also actively works towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to create a prosperous and resilient low-carbon future. The Company, guided by its GHG Policy, seeks to implement short, medium, and long-term projects aligned with relevant Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) pillars. These projects involve transforming energy generation, adopting cleaner manufacturing processes, exploring wind turbine options and administering the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy for major processes.

Several initiatives have been launched to achieve targets, among which is the implementation of carbon-neutral agriculture within its facility. One is a reforestation programme aimed at restoring fauna and flora in select green cover. Over 16 hectares has been dedicated to developing a model forest to promote effective forest management and stewardship practices, resulting in the planting of over 25,000 saplings over the past few years. Now, over 60% of these saplings have grown into young and healthy trees with a height of over 8 feet. Additionally, the Company collaborates with the NGO “Rainforest Trust” to preserve virgin forests in several locations across the island, extending its commitment to environmental protection beyond its walls.

“Ocean Lanka is not just weaving fabric; we are weaving a sustainable future,” concludes Weerasekera. “Our commitment goes beyond our factory walls, embracing holistic initiatives from waste management to energy conservation, renewable resources and carbon neutrality. Through collaboration, innovation and a steadfast dedication to environmental responsibility, we aspire to set a model for industries worldwide, demonstrating that sustainability is not just a goal but a journey towards a better, greener future.”

Posted: November 29, 2023

Source: Ocean Lanka