Identification and substitution of APEOs in chemical inputs used in a textile manufacturing unit

June 2018


As part of its chemical management work, and in line with its Detox commitment, Tesco recommends the testing of waste water from their supplier units for the presence of restricted chemical groups.

The wastewater report from one mill in Sri Lanka showed traces of NPEOs and OPEOs in the inlet water and water before treatment. It was decided to check the chemical inventory at the unit to determine the source of APEOs.

The test reports revealed the presence of APEOs in three chemicals. Although the contaminations were well within the MRSL limits, the company has implemented a preventive plan to avoid any recurrence.

Substituted substances

Dyeing auxiliaries containing traces of NPEO and OPEO

Alternative substances

Alternative chemicals will be provided by the supplier after discussions with their suppliers and subsequent testing for the presence of APEOs in the alternatives


  • Sector: Manufacture of textiles, wearing apparel, leather and related products.
  • Process: Garment washing
  • Function of substituted chemicals: Processing aid
  • Enterprise using the alternative: Tesco Stores Ltd (F&F Clothing), 6 Trident Place, Mosquito Way, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL10 9UL.
  • State of implementation: the solution was implemented and in use at the time of publication
  • Date when the alternative was implemented and in what country:  2018, Sri Lanka
  • Availability of the alternative: alternative not yet identified
  • Reliability of information: there is evidence that the solution was implemented and in use at the time of publication

Substitution Description

Alkylphenol Ethoxylates (APEOs) are synthetic chemicals used as surfactants and washing aids in a wide range of industries, including textiles. In waste water, APEOs break down into Alkylphenols. 

APEOs are regulated in Europe through the REACH regulation, which specifies a 1000 mg/kg limit for Nonylphenol (NP) and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEOs) as a substance or in a mixture. The regulation also specifies a new limit of 100 mg/kg for NPEOs in textile articles, effective from 3rd February 2021. Tesco has already restricted APEOs in their products through their Restricted Substances List and aims to ensure zero discharge of APEOs to the environment. 

As part of its chemical management strategy, Tesco recommends suppliers test waste water from their production facilities for the presence of restricted chemical groups.  Analytical testing of wastewater generated at one of Tesco’s textile manufacturing suppliers in Sri Lanka revealed the presence of APEOs in their inlet water and water before treatment. The chemical inventory of the facility was screened for probable sources of APEOs, and 40 samples were shortlisted for testing.   Three chemicals tested positive for either NPEO or OPEO. The concentration of APEOs in the samples tested was 23 mg/kg NPEO, 343 mg/kg NPEO and 329 mg/kg OPEO. 

The mill shared these findings with the suppliers of the chemicals concerned, who confirmed that they had not intentionally added APEOs and sent alternative chemicals for testing. The analytical Laboratory found traces of APEOs in all three alternative chemicals.

The level of APEO contamination is low and clearly unintentional.  Although the contamination falls well within Manufacturing Restricted Substance List limits, with Tesco’s support, the supplier decided to implement a preventive maintenance plan to avoid APEO contamination in the future. The preventive maintenance plan includes:

  • Phasing out of two chemicals from the chemical inventory and replacement of these with APEO-free alternatives
  • Training and discussions with the chemical suppliers at their premises
  • Regular testing and reporting for chemical batches from suppliers
  • Regular monitoring of chemical inventory and waste water by suppliers

This preventive plan will help ensure zero or minimum contamination of APEOs in Tesco’s textile production.