Contamination by foreign materials in cotton has become an issue over the last couple of growing seasons. This contamination comes from a wide variety of foreign materials including, plastic bags, plastic mulch, bale wrap, rope, gloves, etc. This is a problem for U.S. grown cotton since the United States has always had a good reputation for contamination free cotton. We would like to keep it that way and keep cotton mills around the world demanding high quality U.S. grown cotton. It is important to remember that one small piece of foreign material can contaminate lots of bales and ruin many yards of fabric. For instance, a plastic grocery bag may be picked up by the harvester and shredded when it goes through the picker head. Then it is shredded even more when it runs through the gin. This one plastic bag may become strung out across hundreds of bales. The worst part is that now not only is your cotton contaminated, but other cotton running through the gin is contaminated also.
It is really hard to pinpoint exactly where contamination is introduced into the cotton stream, but here are a few ways that we think contamination enters the cotton stream.
- Picked up in field by cotton picker.
- Picked up in field by module truck.
- Picked up in gin from unwrapping round modules or torn module tarps.
- Picked up in warehouse from unclean floor.
These are just a few theories of how cotton may be contaminated by foreign materials. This list in no way encompasses all of the ways cotton may become contaminated. We have developed a page on our website dedicated to this issue. Awareness is the key. There may be practices on the farm, gin, or warehouse that can be altered to help mitigate cotton becoming contaminated.
Remember that contamination free cotton not only helps your cotton but helps the entire industry by maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. grown cotton.
So let’s Keep Our Cotton Clean!