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Earth-friendly textile business moves research to RR

Gary Selwyn, founder of Green Theme Technologies Inc., shows test fabrics from a water-free dying process he developed. He wishes to reduce water pollution in the textile industry.
Photo by Amy Byres / Observer

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Rio Rancho becomes a part of the textile industry with Green Theme Technologies Inc. moving from Albuquerque.

Gary Selwyn founded Green Theme Technologies with the mission to develop a water-resistant formula fluorocarbon, or PFO-free.

Many outdoor clothing lines use PFOs to make products water-resistant. Clothing is washed in a chemical formula that contains PFOs. This pollutes water used during the process and the chemical wash is harmful to people, according to a report from the National Collaboration Centre for Environmental Health, NCCEH.

Green Theme Technologies doubled the size of their original space by moving to 4132 Jackie Road in Rio Rancho. This new location’s main purpose is research and development, and Selwyn is gearing up for production there

“Part of the plan for here is to do Kevlar operations that have to be done in the U.S. That is a military requirement, that it has to be made in the U.S.,” he said.

Kevlar is used for bulletproof vests and is a military-grade fabric.

“The reason why there is no textile operation in the Southwest is because water is scarce, but this is a game-changer because it requires no water and generates no pollution,” Selwyn said.

A chemical formula is being made to make clothing water-resistant.
Photo by Amy Byres / Observer

This location has about five employees. Selwyn said he plans to double it within a year.

Selwyn has a Ph.D. in chemistry and believed there had to be a way to make a product water-resistant without environmental and human health risks, he said.

In 2012 he began his research.

“The first work was literally done in my kitchen; you know, the standard entrepreneurial activities. Then Under Armour got interested in it. Then they wanted to come out and see my facility. I thought, ‘Well I better get something a little respectable.’ I relocated to the BioScience Center (a business incubator in Albuquerque); I was there for a year,” he said.

The textile industry is responsible for 20 percent of the world’s water pollution, Selwyn said.

“Mostly from dying but also from what is called DWR, which is durable water-repellent finishing. We have DWR as a commercial product. We are working on bringing water-free dye as the next product,” he said.

Most Green Theme fabrics are processed in Taiwan. There are about 14 employees at the Taiwan location, Selwyn said.

“In some areas where there is a lot of textile operation, China and a lot of Asia, there is so much demand for water that it has inhibited community water availability and has polluted the water table, too,” he said.

Chris Cooper is a chemical engineer helping develop sustainable water-resistant formulas for the textile industry.
Photo by Amy Byres / Observer

According to the NCCEH report, exposure to high levels of PFOs has been linked to pregnancy complications, risk of prostate and bladder cancer, changes in cholesterol levels and changes in thyroid hormone levels.

Some results were determined to be inconsistent and more work is needed to confirm findings.

“Humans are exposed to many chemicals in addition to PFOs. The long-term health effects of multiple, low-level exposures are poorly understood. Chemical exposures to the developing fetus, infants and children are the greatest concern; these periods are the most sensitive stages of human development,” stated the report. These are a few contributing reasons Selwyn founded Green Theme to use no PFOs, he said.

“The idea was to create a water-repellent treatment that would be environmentally friendly and would not involve fluorocarbons,” he said.

With funding from himself and Under Armour the EMPEL process underwent its development.

Later, Under Armour changed management and pulled out. Selwyn said it was a blessing in disguise.

He had been about to secure about $7 million from investors, he said. Selwyn said he has been able to go far with that money.

This process involves no water and is created through high pressures.

At the Rio Rancho location is a long steel high-pressure pod. Fabric is rolled up and inserted into the pod where a chemical formula will be pressurized to 500 psi.

“Without question, we have the best water-repellent treatment in terms of performance and in terms of laundry durability, nobody else comes close,” he said. “And the reason is we put it into a chamber at 500-psi pressure. The chemistry, instead of just sitting on the surface, boom! It goes in from the gas pressure; it’s like (snaps fingers). And then we cure it, which forms a polymer and it stays there. So the chemistry becomes part of the fabric.”

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