• Best solution: Solve the contamination problem at the origin

    Chapter 2 - Cotton value addition - Extraneous contamination in cotton


    Obviously, the problem has to be tackled at the root: prevention is far superior to cure. Cotton growers, ginners and supporting organizations should take adequate measures to control fibrous contamination such as hair, polypropylene, cloth pieces, yarn pieces and bird feathers, thereby reducing the burden on spinners. This problem can be handled more by common sense than anything else. There is no high technology involved in preventing extraneous contamination in cotton growing, picking, storing, transportation and ginning. The following steps need to be taken by both growers and ginners.

    • Wipe out the opinion that, because cotton is a natural fibre, the presence of contamination in cotton is normal. These contaminations are extraneous and not grown in the cotton plant.
    • Educate everyone in the value chain – growers, pickers, and ginners – through visual media about the consequences of the problem.
    • Wherever manual picking is in practice, insist on 100% white cotton uniforms, white cotton caps and white cotton picking bags for the pickers.
    • Growers should be made aware of the danger in using polypropylene bags (from fertilizers and pesticides) for marking the fields as flags. It is better to use flags made of white cotton cloth.
    • No hair cutting or trimming should be allowed near the fields.
    • Animals and birds should not be allowed in the fields or the storage areas near ginning.
    • When the leftovers from machine picking are collected manually by collectors, use 100% cotton cloth bags instead of polypropylene bags.
    • Discourage cotton pickers and workers in ginning factories from bringing eatables and plastic bags.
    • Workers in ginning factories also should use only white uniforms made out of 100% cotton and wear white caps to eliminate contamination from coloured cloth pieces and hair. Most of the big contaminants are in ginned cotton are due to poor storage and poor material handling.
    • Use 100% cotton bale wrappers. If cost is the reason for not using cotton wrappers for bales, then the best alternative would be to use thick polyethylene transparent wrappers, which cannot fibrillate.
    • Ginners should regularly check the actual contaminants in the cotton using manual cleaning of a few random bales. It is better to know the problem at the ginning stage than to hear it from the users.
    • Use electronic equipment to detect and reject contamination in ginning before pulverizing the contaminants.
    • Introduce bonuses for clean picking and clean ginning.
    • Consider contamination as one of the major quality parameters, just like effective length, micronaire and grade. Include risk clauses in the contract. More risk is involved in using cotton contaminated with hair and polypropylene than in using cotton of a slightly lower grade or length. 
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    Cotton Exporter's Guide

    Brochure - African cotton promotion
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