Closed-loop water systems in textile industrial districts

orchestrated removal of emerging pollutants from textile wastewater

Emerging contaminants have been a focus of attention by the scientific community for many years and, more recently, by supervisory bodies, both at the European and national levels. It is a very broad category of chemical substances – present in the environment in concentrations of the order of ng/l – µg/l – persistent and biologically active. 

Limiting the use of these substances at sources in order to reduce their presence in the environment is a reasonable route, a practice that in some cases European and international textile companies are already voluntarily operating. 

However, for some products, this is difficult to implement and therefore both prevention and control strategies should be pursued in parallel. Furthermore, some of these substances are particularly persistent and have been used over the decades by several industrial sectors, thus they appear to be ubiquitous in various environmental media, even if present in low concentrations. For these reasons it is important to study methods and tools for removing diffused micro-pollutants from the environment and in particular from water: a fundamental role in the control of environmental pollution by micro-pollutants is assumed by wastewater treatment plants, but not until now designed for removing such complex substances, so different from each other and at such low concentrations.

In the CASCADE project, two categories of emerging (micro) pollutants of great interest in the textile sector have been selected: poly- and per-fluorinated compounds (PFAS) and Microplastics.

PFAS are among the most persistent emerging micropollutants and among the substances most studied by researchers in recent years, due to their impact on the environment and on human health, so much so that they are subject to great attention by regulatory bodies.

Microplastics in water are the second addressed problem, whose origin is partly connected to the production cycle and deterioration during the use of textile products containing synthetic fibers. 


The CASCADE  project is aimed at evaluating at a laboratory scale and testing at a demonstrative scale a series of treatment technologies to remove PFAS and Microplastics from wastewater both at the level of textile companies and at the level of centralised wastewater treatment plants.

The goal of the project will be the identification of the best and most feasible combination to be implemented in a textile district.The implementation of the treatments will make it possible to reduce the discharge into the environment of these micropollutants both with the treated wastewater and with the sewage sludge and will allow reuse of the treated wastewater avoiding the reintroduction of pollutants into the production system.

The project also foresees to deepen the ecotoxicological assessment and to develop the feasibility of feeding the industrial aqueduct with treated wastewater.

Start date: 1st October 2023

Duration: 48 months


PFAS: perfluorinated alkylated substances.  They are the most persistent emerging micropollutants. The widespread use of PFAS  together with their high persistence have led to the ubiquitous occurrence of this group of chemicals in the environment. PFAS have been used for a wide range of functional applications within textiles, upholstery, leather apparel, and carpets: fluorochemicals are the most commonly used repellents in the textile industry.

Microplastics: solid particles with dimensions ranging from 1 to 1000 𝜇m (micrometre), with "large microplastics" reaching sizes of up to 5 millimetres. Microplastics have been found in various environments, including freshwater, marine ecosystems, drinking water, and wastewater. Plastic materials in urban and industrial wastewater comprise pipe fragments, personal hygiene products, materials from tire wear, and textile fibres released during washing and industrial processes.

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