Josina van der Velden
Companies innovate to demonstrate how cotton can bring colors to cotton
Cotton Incorporated, the research and promotion company for cotton, and Archroma, a global leader in color and specialty chemicals, have collaborated to present what they believe is the first ever dye derived from cotton plant -residues. Cotton Incorporated approached Archroma and challenged them to develop a dye option that may represent the first opportunity in modern textile history to create and color a fabric using a single plant source. EarthColors is Archroma’s innovative method of creating dyes in warm, ternary shades from nature.
The patented technology addresses two key concerns of the textile industry: sustainability and traceability. These sulfur-based dyes are designed for use on cellulosic fibers, such as cotton. While most dyes in the textile industry are synthetic, using petrochemicals (oil) as a base, EarthColors is a biosynthetic alternative that utilizes natural waste from the agricultural or herbal industry.
“As soon as we heard about the EarthColors technology, we wanted to explore the possibilities of cotton as a natural dye source,” says Mary Ankeny, Senior Director Textile Chemistry Research at Cotton Incorporated, who led the project from the Cotton Incorporated side. “Byproducts of cotton harvesting and ginning have been utilized within the food and construction industries for decades, but we were intrigued by the idea of using cotton biomass to dye cotton fiber.”
There is an ample supply of cotton biomass. The global volume of cotton harvesting and ginning byproducts – which includes burs, stems, immature bolls, lint, sticks, and leaves – can be as much as three million tons per year. One 480 lb. bale of cotton, for example, can produce 150-200 lbs. of usable byproducts. Archroma’s EarthColors application on cotton byproducts marks the first time the cotton plant has been used to actually dye cotton fabrics.
Dyeing a natural fiber with dye processed with natural ingredients has appeal for many environmentally-conscious brands, a niche Archroma aimed to fill with the launch of the line in 2014.
“We are grateful to Cotton Incorporated to have brought us this challenge. Archroma strives to challenge the status quo, and our EarthColors technology demonstrates our dedication to support and inspire sustainable fashion with warm colors that can be traced from the field to the shop,” says Nuria Estape, , Head of Textile Specialties Global Marketing & Promotion, at Archroma.
Indeed, each batch of EarthColors dye offers a high level of traceability in the form of a hangtag with a Near Field Communication chip. Data on the chip, which can be accessed by Archroma customers and even consumers through a smart phone, explains the manufacturing process of the dye and where the natural materials were sourced.
Similarly, every bale of cotton grown in the United States receives a bale identification tag. The tag allows cotton businesses to trace the journey of the bale as far back as the facility where the cotton was ginned. The tag also includes information on the fiber characteristics for the cotton contained in the bale, which allows for efficient inventory management by merchants and mills.
Cotton Incorporated has presented fabric samples dyed with the EarthColors cotton-derived dye at the Premiere Vision trade fair taking place in Paris, France September 12 through 14. The knit and woven constructions, produced at Cotton Incorporated’s laboratories and at the Cone White Oak facility, demonstrate the range of brown hues that be achieved using 100% cotton biomass as the source.
About Cotton Incorporated
Cotton Incorporated, funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, conducts worldwide research and promotion activities to increase the demand for and profitability of cotton.
Archroma is a global color and specialty chemicals company committed to innovation, world-class quality standards, high service levels, cost-efficiency and sustainability. Archroma is headquartered in Reinach near Basel, Switzerland, and operates with approximately 3000 employees over 35 countries. Through its three businesses: Textile Specialties, Paper Solutions and Emulsion Products, Archroma delivers specialized performance and color solutions to meet customer needs in their local markets.
Archroma helps people fulfill their desire for products that appeal to their emotions and senses for a greater life experience, by developing beauty- and performance-improving technologies applied to everyday products. Products enhanced, colors enhanced, performance enhanced – “Life enhanced”.
Archroma is a global, diversified provider of specialty chemicals serving the branded and performance textiles, packaging and paper, and coatings, adhesives and sealants markets.
Headquartered in Reinach, Switzerland, Archroma operates in over 100 countries, with 3,000 employees located in 35 countries and 26 production sites.
Archroma is passionate about delivering leading and innovative solutions, enhancing people’s lives and respecting the planet. The company is committed to the principles of "The Archroma Way to a Sustainable World: Safe, Efficient, Enhanced. It's our nature!"; an approach reflected in its innovations, world-class quality standards, high service levels and cost-efficiency.
Archroma are proud members and/or partners with the following organizations