Substitution of APEO-containing dye and pigment in the manufacture of textiles 

June 2018


As part of its Detox commitments, Tesco has recommended testing of wastewater from their supplier units for the presence of restricted chemical groups.

Testing found traces of NPEOs and OPEOs detected in the inlet water and waste water before treatment at a textile manufacturing facility in India.  The chemical inventory of the facility was screened for probable sources, and a dye and a pigment tested positive for NPEOs. 

Both colourants were replaced with APEO-free alternatives in collaboration with the chemical manufacturer.  The company has implemented a preventive action plan to avoid any future recurrence.

Substituted substances

A dye and a pigment containing traces of NPEOs 

Alternative substances

APEO-free Dye and APEO-free pigment


  • Sector: Manufacture of textiles, wearing apparel, leather and related products.
  • Process: Dyeing/ Printing 
  • Function of substituted chemicals: Colouring Agent (Dyes & Pigment) 
  • 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 alternative was implemented and in what country:  2018, India
  • Availability of the alternative: On the market
  • 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 used in textile manufacturing. 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 (RSL) and aims to ensure zero discharge of APEOs into 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 a textile mill in India 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 48 samples were shortlisted for testing for APEOs.

A dye and a pigment tested positive for NPEOs, with concentrations of 100 mg/kg in the dye and 42 mg/kg in the pigment. The mill shared these findings with the colourant suppliers who provided alternatives for testing.  A third-party laboratory in India found no NPEOs in the alternative colourants, which were then implemented by the supplier in bulk production.

This substitution of NPEO-containing colourants with alternatives has demonstrated the same colouring effect can be achieved with a minimum change in processes and no impact on product quality.

With Tesco’s support, the supplier also decided to implement a preventive maintenance plan to avoid APEO contamination in the future. The 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 maintenance plan will help ensure zero or minimum contamination of APEOs in Tesco’s textile production.