The National Cotton Council is urging producers, ginners, warehousers and their employees to be proactive in preventing lint contamination this harvest season.
Why the heightened concern?
The most recent International Textile Manufacturers Federation survey of worldwide cotton contamination found more contamination in 2011 compared with the last survey year of 2009. Some U.S. spinners say they also are seeing more contamination than with the 2010 crop. Anecdotal evidence from U.S. spinning mills and nonwoven cotton products producers tends to confirm these findings. Even though U.S. cotton still is considered one of the least contaminated growths, the U.S. cotton industry must be diligent if it wants to maintain that status. Producers, ginners and warehousers remain the first line of defense when it comes to keeping foreign matter out of seed cotton and ginned lint so that textile mills receive only pure fiber.
What types of contaminants are surfacing?
U.S. spinners are seeing more black plastics that look like the mulch that is routinely used in vegetable production. Also showing up are more materials associated with conventional and round modules, such as tie downs and covers, both tarps and plastic wrap. The NCC would be remiss if we did not continue reminding producers and ginners to pay close attention to the soundness of module tarps, the use of cotton twine and other non-contaminating materials for tie downs, and the proper care/handling of modules from field to module feeder. When preparing modules for feeding, ginners must continually educate their employees to ensure the proper and complete removal of all module tarps, tarp tie downs and round module wraps. Gins processing round modules should make sure that module haulers are equipped with the appropriate modifications to module chains to eliminate damage to round module wrap.
The NCC Web site’s Quality Preservation page, www.cotton.org/tech/quality/index.cfm, has links to resource material from several sources aimed at helping industry members attain zero contamination tolerance. As part of its ongoing educational effort, the NCC recently briefed producer leaders at the American Cotton Producers summer meeting. The NCC also is distributing an updated contamination prevention poster and other materials to gins.
Are mills using new detection technology and tracing strategies?
Spinners scrutinize raw cotton lint from all sources and are willing to embrace new contamination detection technology. At least one U.S. spinner, for example, is evaluating a new system that detects and removes a wide range of contaminants – from oil/grease to transparent plastics – on the fly without disrupting lint flow. No foreign matter detection technology guarantees that 100 percent of the potential contaminants will be removed. That’s one reason mills continue to rely on bale management strategies that allow them to trace foreign material back to the source, e.g. a gin and, in some cases, a producer and why it’s important to eliminate potential contaminants before they reach the textile manufacturer. The reward will be twofold: satisfying U.S. cotton’s mill customers and maintaining U.S. cotton’s global reputation for contamination-free lint.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer for the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.