“Green” comes in many colors. And for brands and retailers pondering the ways to integrate sustainability into products and procedures, recent advances such as biosynthetic dyes enable the ecological, closed-loop process many consumers are looking for.
And companies such as Archroma, a Swiss color and specialty chemical firm, created its EarthColors line to offer a fully traceable high-performance biosynthetic dye collection that reflects colors seen in nature. Consisting of seven dyes made of waste leftover from the food, herbal and cotton industries, EarthColors is designed for cellulosic-based fibers such as cotton, viscose, linen, bamboo and kapok, among others, the company said. Its 70 to 100 percent natural colors are derived from the inedible parts of nuts and leaves, such as rosemary, nutshells and almonds — and because Archroma exclusively integrates only inedible parts of food waste into its EarthColors dyes, the remainder of the food product is available for consumption.
At a time when the Archroma team had already begun brainstorming ideas for more sustainable products and processes, the company’s head of research and development, Manuel Domingo, was struck with the idea of using food waste for dyes while eating chestnuts at home during the winter holiday season. Nuria Estape, head of marketing and promotion for Archroma’s brand and performance textile specialties business, told WWD, “At [that] moment, [Manuel] didn’t see the shells as waste, he saw them as a mixture of complex natural polymers that nature offers us. He realized that we could do something completely different for our planet and for the textile industry.”
EarthColors’ color palette is described as “warm ternary shades from nature,” and centered on several hues of brown, wine red, deep green and dark slate blue. Estape told WWD, “In terms of shade card, EarthColors technology has some limitations — let’s say that we can only cover the colors of nature. Our potential is more in line with experimenting with alternative residues to help closing the loop of other industries at the same time we upcycle waste.”
EarthColors features Earth-Oak, made of 100 percent almond shells; Earth-Maple, 100 percent rosemary waste; Earth-Cotton, 100 percent cotton plant residue; Earth-Sand, 90 percent bitter orange; Earth-Clay, 90 percent beet residue; Earth-Forest, 90 percent saw palmetto, and Earth-Stone, 70 percent saw palmetto. The company said the use of natural waste-based raw materials “has no negative impact in any other steps of the dye manufacturing, such as water and energy consumption or waste generation.”
The materials are carefully selected, and mainly centered on the practice of utilizing inedible waste. Estape told WWD, “Our main criteria [is] the close availability of the ingredients and [that they are] nonedible waste. We don’t want to take any food away from anyone. The beauty of this project is the big potential to reuse waste from other industries to help create a circular economy. We have been contacted by other companies to experiment with alternative residues and we are working on that in our R+D laboratory.” Estape continued, “We like to challenge the status quo in the deep belief that we can make our industry sustainable. We therefore continuously bring new innovations.”
And EarthColors technology is fully traceable: The firm provides brands with the option to enable tracking from the origin of the raw material through the supply chain via its NFC technology embedded in smart hangtags attached to items of clothing. In addition, its EarthColors technology also helps preserve natural resources and reduce negative impacts on water footprint, as well as guarantees full waste management into production by transforming 100 percent of the natural raw material to a new dyestuff during the synthesization of the dyes, the company said. Because the waste is upcycled from other industries, the process innately contributes even further to a circular economy.
EarthColors dyes are integrated into apparel from Patagonia, Kathmandu, and is suited particularly well for denim, as Dutch clothing company G-Star Raw incorporated EarthColors into its denim collections to further enhance its sustainable product offerings. Frouke Bruinsma, corporate responsibility director, G-Star Raw, told WWD, “As denim innovators, we’re always striving to challenge conventions – both in terms of style and future-proof processes. The introduction of EarthColors into G-Star’s jeans’ collection represents a successful collaboration with Archroma and the embodiment of our sustainable mindset which guides our product design from start to finish.”
And Adriana Galijasevic, denim and sustainability expert at G-Star Raw, told WWD, “Archroma is the global leader in the textile industry that is specialized in color solutions while respecting the planet. As part of the brand’s mission to lead the industry by example and bring sustainable solutions to the table, G-Star felt that Archroma would be a great partner to collaborate and develop an alternative process to conventional dyeing. The result is a series of colored jeans, dyed with recycled agricultural waste.”
And sustainability means enabling a cleaner and healthier dye process, too. Archroma recently released its new technology, Denisol Pure Indigo 30, an aniline-free denim indigo dye that offers a nontoxic method for producing indigo blue dye for denim and jeans. The company said aniline impurities are “unavoidable” in the production of indigo-dyed denim as the chemical is “locked” into the indigo pigment during the dyeing process and can never fully be washed off the fabric, according to the firm. Aniline is a toxic chemical and has been linked to cancer, organ damage and genetic defects, Archroma noted.
Alexander Wessels, chief executive officer at Archroma, said, “We have tested denim garments and found that aniline concentrations are frequently higher than expected. This could put some manufacturers over the limits agreed on their restricted substance lists.”
Wessels said the firm “holds a deep belief that we can make our industry sustainable,” and “by removing a hazardous impurity from the denim supply chain, we aim to protect the workers who create denim, the consumers who wear denim and the environment with cleaner waterways.” Wessels continued, “As a responsible industry leader, we believe it’s important to actively look for eco-advanced solutions that are attractive and at the same time cost-efficient for clothing brands, retailers and end consumers.”
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