The research of eco-friendly dyes
Dyes generally require water and energy to work, and most of them also require auxiliary chemicals – salt, soda ash, acids, leveling agents, and others, depending on the type of dye and the type of fabric, respectively. All of these materials can make for a lot of pollution, and this pollution has come under increasing scrutiny, motivating many companies to look for more eco-friendly alternative dyes.
A low-impact dye
By definition, a low-impact dye is a dye that has been classified as eco-friendly by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, an international standard. These dyes are generally free of toxic chemicals and mordants – special chemical agents that fix the dye to fabric – need less rinsing and are better absorbed by the fabric, generally 70-80%.
In particular, low-impact dyes lack heavy metals, i.e. chrome, copper, and zinc, so they are much better for the environment in this regard. All of these metals, chrome, copper, and zinc, have some negative environmental impacts, particularly with regard to their mining, so it is always a good thing from an environmental standpoint to reduce demand for them.
Another special class of dyes is known as fiber-reactive dyes, and they directly bond with the fibers of the garment rather than remaining within the fiber. In general, fiber-reactive dyes are also low-impact dyes, although there are a few exceptions. Fiber-reactive dyes are a popular option for cellulosic fabrics, such as cotton, linen, hemp, rayon, and Tencel, as well as wool and certain synthetic fibers, i.e. nylon.
Vienna Textile Lab
One company at the forefront of the movement for sustainable, environmentally-friendly dyes is Vienna Textile Lab (1) | #Vienna Textile Lab |, a producer of organic, bacteria-based dyes. Bacteria are a surprisingly proficient source of beautiful dyes, and Vienna Textile Lab uses highly efficient production methods which are very good for the environment.
Bacteria have key advantages from an environmental standpoint. Unlike crop-based dyes, they do not require agricultural land. Unlike mineral- and petrochemical-based dyes, they do not require mining or drilling.
Another company actively involved in the sustainable dye revolution is Algalife(2) | #Algalife |. As the name implies, Algalife makes biotech textiles, dyes, and pigments from algae, which has much the same advantages as bacteria: as a microorganism, it can be grown in laboratory environments without any need for agricultural land on the one hand, or mining or drilling on the other.
Another breakthrough in alternative dye design is AirDye(3) | #AirDye |, a technology created by the company Colorep. AirDye eliminates the need for water in the dyeing process, removing a significant source of environmental impacts: conventional dyeing methods discharge up to 72 toxic chemicals and account for 17-20% of industrial pollution.
AirDye saves even more water and energy by using one highly efficient machine to dye and print. This eliminates steaming, washing, and steering, all resource-intensive post-processes of conventional dyeing methods.
The demand for ecologically friendly dyes will grow
As public awareness of the need for ecologically friendly alternative dyes grows, it will become increasingly important for fashion labels to be able to demonstrate that they are purchasing these dyes rather than conventional ones. Thanks to Vienna Textile Lab, Algalife, and AirDye, there are more options than ever before.
Vienna Textile Lab website | http://www.viennatextilelab.at/about-us/ |
Algalife website | https://www.alga-life.com/ |
AirDye website | https://www.debscorp.com/airdye-technology/ |