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Fashion for Good Pilot Turns Waste Materials into Black Pigments

Fashion for Good launched the Black Pigment Pilot project on Tuesday with partners Bestseller, Birla Cellulose, Kering and PVH Corp., in collaboration with Paradise Textiles, and innovators Graviky Labs, Living Ink and Nature Coatings.

The project aims to validate and scale black pigments derived from waste feedstocks such as industrial carbon, algae and wood that could replace synthetic dyes and offer a more sustainable means of textile production with a lower carbon impact.

“Collaboration is key to making a step change in replacing the abundantly used harmful dyes in the industry, of which black is dominating,” Katrin Ley, managing director at Fashion for Good, said. “We are very excited to be able to support this first-of-its-kind collaborative pilot aiming to validate three technologies that will enable the industry to switch to more sustainable (black) dye chemistry.”

Black is one of the most commonly used colors to dye apparel, but modern synthetic dyes are often derived from petrochemical compounds that are nonrenewable and can contribute to water pollution when not treated correctly. Black Pigment Pilot aims to develop and scale black pigment for the dope dying of man-made cellulosic (MMCs) fibers and recycled polyester (rPet) yarns, evaluating the technologies of the participating innovators Graviky Labs, Nature Coatings and Living Ink, which produce black pigment from industrial carbon emissions, wood waste and waste algae, respectively.

“Graviky Labs has always believed in circularity and our approach at Graviky of converting carbon emissions to a usable black pigment instigates our beliefs,” Graviky CEO Nikhil Kaushik said. “Through Air-Ink, we have been able to showcase the potential of decarbonizing surface printing. We’re happy to be a part of this project that goes beyond surface printing and helps us to explore dope dyeing textiles, with the support of Fashion for Good and their partners.”

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So far, their technologies have only been used in printing applications. To develop formulations for dope dyeing, the companies will be supported by Fashion for Good partner Birla Cellulose and Paradise Textiles, the dedicated material science and innovation hub of the Alpine Group. Birla Cellulose brings technical expertise into the production of dope dyed MMC fibres and Paradise Textiles is known for its consciously crafted collection of sustainable and performance fabrics, as well as integrated, advanced manufacturing processes.

“Dope dyeing viscose with black pigments that come from a sustainable feedstock can revolutionize the industry by eliminating chemically intensive textile dyeing, the associated wastewater effluents of this process and help reduce GHG emissions of the overall process,” said Dr. Aspi Patel, chief technology officer of Aditya Birla Group, parent of Birla Cellulose.

Fashion for Good launched the Black Pigment Pilot with partners Bestseller, Birla Cellulose, Kering and PVH Corp.
The cycle of making black pigment dye from waste materials. Courtesy

Jane Palmer, CEO of Nature Coatings, said the company’s pigment, made from wood waste, is a direct replacement of petroleum carbon black pigments.

“We offer 100 percent bio-based pigments and dispersions,” Palmer said. “The industry requires a huge shift from currently used synthetic pigments for printing and dyeing textiles. We’re glad to be participating in this project that’s moving the needle in the right direction.”

The first phase of the pilot will run until mid-2022, with Birla Cellulose and Paradise Textiles producing the first dope dyed MMCs fibers and rPet yarns, respectively, using the black pigments. Participating Fashion for Good partners will have the opportunity to evaluate the performance, color fastness, wearability and impact of all solutions.

“In order to make fashion fit for the future, it is essential that the textile industry works together to reduce water consumption and to explore opportunities to color fibers without heavy metals or synthesized dyestuff that can affect biological systems,” Lewis Shuler, head of innovation at Paradise Textiles, said.

Successful formulations will then go on to trial larger production runs with fabrics dyed using the innovations. To assess the performance of dope dyeing with the innovative black pigment formulations, test variables such as affinity, color and light fastness, and tensile strength of the fibers and yarns will be measured against dope dyeing with the standard synthetic dyes currently used in the industry.

Successes in the initial trials will be developed with the purpose of scaling beyond fiber and yarn dyeing to textile production with the long-term goal of integrating the technologies at commercial scale in the value chain.

Kering is constantly looking for new innovations to reduce its own supply chain environmental impact, but also to catalyze change within the fashion industry and beyond,” Christian Tubito, head of the Material Innovation Lab at Kering, said. “Black is an often used color by all houses within the group, therefore we are very excited to see the results of the Black Pigment Pilot pave the way for these more sustainable dyes to take over from their synthetic counterparts.”