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THE IMPACT OF SPRING COLLECTIONS’ SYNTHETIC DYES ON THE ENVIRONMENT

This article presents the impact of spring collections’ synthetic dyes on the environment, as well as sustainable alternatives, based on natural dyes and innovative technologies.

Words By Varnika Srivastava

03/04/2022

In the fashion industry, colour is a catalyst for sales success; it is the first thing that customers notice about a garment. Today, 90% of our clothing is coloured synthetically, which necessitates enormous amounts of water and, in some cases, harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process. Due to inefficient dyeing and finishing procedures, approximately 200,000 tons of dyes (worth $1 billion) are lost to wastewater, including toxic chemicals, heavy metals, microfibres, and mordants (chemicals used to fuse dyes with cloth). This means that existing dyeing processes squander resources and money while also releasing hazardous chemicals into waters. Cotton, on the other hand, necessitates a large amount of water because it retains just 75% of the colour, necessitating multiple dyeing processes. Synthetic fibres retain 99% of the dyeing process, although they may include harmful chemicals. 

Here are some sustainable solutions that not only provide a good alternative to synthetic dye in terms of colour and texture, but also lead to less hazardous chemicals getting into the water system. 

Natural Dyes

To begin with, natural dyes and pigments provide bright shades. Then there’s the fact that they’re not only biodegradable, but also nontoxic and allergy-free. This means they are significantly better for the environment and for usage in close proximity to people. Natural colour may be extracted easily from plants, fruits, and flowers. Many natural colours have antibacterial qualities, making them especially safe for children. Plants gathered for the production of plant dyes are also used for a range of other purposes in the community. This frequently implies that natural dyeing produces no waste because the local population uses all portions of the plant for cooking and medicinal use in addition to extracting dye, which is a win-win situation!

DyeCoo

DyeCoo created a method that dyes fabrics without using any water, a procedure that is usually connected with the production of harmful effluent. DyeCoo’s innovation uses carbon dioxide as a solvent instead of water in a closed-loop system. Furthermore, no process chemicals are required, resulting in a reduction in the amount of chemicals used when compared to traditional dyeing techniques. While the initial investment in the equipment is more than for traditional dyeing, the company claims that the short batch cycles, efficient dye use, and lack of wastewater treatment cut operational expenses. By limiting worker exposure to harmful substances, the device can help reduce health and safety issues. 

 

ColorZen

ColorZen technology is both innovative and user-friendly. Raw cotton fibre bales are treated with a proprietary and safe wet treatment. This occurs early in the supply chain, between the cotton field and the spinner, allowing them to apply their technology extensively and consistently. This also gives ColorZen supply chain flexibility, allowing them to transport treated fibre to any producer anywhere in the world. ColorZen’s raw cotton pretreatment helps the fashion sector transition to a more sustainable future. Its cotton has been processed to make it fully safe, even for babies.

Colorifix

Colorifix, a biotech firm located in the United Kingdom, promises to reduce the detrimental effects of traditional textile dyeing on biodiversity and human health. Toxic petrochemicals and other dangerous compounds are avoided in the Colorifix dyeing process. Instead, they’ve created a completely biological technique for producing, depositing, and fixing colours on textiles. They can identify and recreate the colour information found in a living thing such as an animal, plant, or microbe using online DNA sequencing. The information is then implanted into a non-pathogenic microorganism. They grow these microorganisms using renewable feedstocks including sugars, yeasts, and plant by-products, which can not only produce the desired colour but also transfer it onto garments with zero toxic chemicals and a fraction of the water and energy used in traditional dyeing.

Big players in the industry, such as Fashion for Good, have already endorsed their idea. H&M debuted the first collection employing their technology in early 2021.

 

Faber Futures

Faber Futures is a multi-award-winning London-based agency that works at the crossroads of nature, design, technology, and society. For comprehensive innovation, our multidisciplinary approach engages industry, institutions, and multi-sector brands with ecologically-driven models.

Systemic and frequently complex transformation is required to establish alternative materials and industrial strategies. We unite the technological with the societal and ecological realms through close engagement with our project partners and clients, resulting in fully integrated routes for regenerative and equitable futures.