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TRADEMARK Color&Cloth - Plant Dyes for the Austrian Textile Industry

01/08/2008

  • Experts interviews

From an idea to a trade product ready for marketing - plant dyes for the textile industry. A project supported by the Austrian "Factory of Tomorrow" programme.

Christian Pladerer, project leader of TRADEMARK Color&Cloth, explains the principle of the project: to create all the prerequisites for the industrial use of plant dyes in the textile industry through the development and optimisation of a commercial product. The results are also presented in the form of a ready-to-dye kit including vegetable material as the dyestuff source.

TRADEMARK Color&Cloth provides technical solutions for the use of plant dyes in the textile industry in Austria

  • Can you briefly explain the context and objectives of TRADEMARK Color&Cloth?

The development of dye-prototypes originated out of the results of the "Color&Cloth“ project (GEISSLER et. al, 2003). With a demand of as little as one tonne of plant dye on, it is possible to be competitive price-wise with synthetic dyes.

The ultimate goal of the existing TRADEMARK Color&Cloth project was the creation of prerequisites for the use of plant dyes on an industrial scale in the textile industry. The term "plant dyes“ refers to natural colorants extracted from vegetable raw material such as dyer’s chamomile, dyer’s woodruff root and onion peel. In order to support these quantities on a standardized, storable and transportable basis, it is not enough to initiate systematic co-operation between suppliers and buyers. Instead, it requires supra-regional structures and a commercial product to achieve appropriate demand quantities.

Specific goals were defined and processed using multi-criterial decision analysis methods, specialized research by an interdisciplinary team, expert interviews and with procurement of experimental data.

On the supply side, a raw material procurement concept was established, dye-prototypes were developed, the technical conversion of plant dyes in factories was studied and the technical requirements for a plant-dye-supplier were specified.

On the demand side, market research for plant dyed textiles was carried out to make marketing recommendations. Additionally, a ready-to-dye kit including vegetable material as a source of dyestuff was developed and different quality labels for textiles regarding dyeing were analyzed.

  • Which players are involved in this project? How was it financed?

The TRADEMARK Color&Cloth Project was supported by 3 Austrian institutions and more than 10 companies from relevant sectors: the textile, wine, agriculture, forestry, food and beverage industries.

The Project was mainly financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation, and Technology (BMVIT) as part of the “Factory of Tomorrow” research and technology Program on Technologies for Sustainable Development.

  • Why did you choose to work on plant dyes? What environmental benefits are expected?

As dyeing with synthetic colours represents an enormous ecological problem, there are environmental benefits to be had from greater use of renewable primary products and resources to be found in many fields: the use of non-renewable resources is minimized, ecological damage is reduced over the complete production chain and the value of agricultural areas is increased.

Additionally, jobs are created and safeguarded with a regional creation of value and a simultaneous use of renewable raw materials.

  • The criteria for sustainable use of natural dyes in modern textile dye houses are:
  • Low resource consumption (life cycle approach)
  • Low emissions (life cycle approach)
  • Practicability and functionality (as a precondition for implementation in industrial procedure).

The food and beverage industry issues considerable amounts of waste which contain natural dyes. Such waste can serve as sources for the extraction of natural dyes for textile-dyeing operations. The extraction of brilliant yellow and red colours from fruit and vegetables is of particular interest.

Plant dyeing represents an essential contribution to sustainable development and to greening the industry, meanwhile dyeing with synthetic colours is an enormous ecological and sociological problem.

  • What are the technical results of the project?

Specifications for production procedures for the commercial product are one of the main results. A bag made of special paper (cellulose with 5 % polyethylene as glue) is filled with a pre-set amount of dried and cut plants. Maximum humidity is 12%, the size of the grains is between 2 and 3 millimetres. The fine fraction has to be sieved in order to keep the content of suspended sediments as small as possible. The special paper is water-permeable but keeps the extraction sediments from getting into the dyebath. The material is heat-resistant and resists the mechanical stress of the extraction process.

The dye-prototypes meet the predefined requirements of shelf life (i.e. dry material filled in bags), transportability, standardizability (i.e. the bags can be blended for standardization) and the requirements of the extraction process (temperature and mechanical resistance). The prototypes are permeable to the solvent, which is water, and for the dyestuff. They are heat resistant, resistant against mechanical strain (i.e. stirring) and they hold back sediments, which otherwise could possibly form dust residues on the textile. Furthermore, the bags can be recycled without any problem after the extraction process.

In the TRADEMARK Color&Cloth project, a main achievement was linking up players that play an important role in making plant dyeing possible on an industrial scale.

To summarize: It was proven that plant dyeing on an industrial scale is possible as the experiments on plant dyeing were positive. The production of dye-prototypes needs further research in order to evaluate the consequences of various preservation and standardization techniques.

It was also shown that there is a market for plant-dyed Clothes and textiles if the marketing concept developed in the project is taken in account.

  • Can you give examples of products dyed using the new process?

Examples are polyamide and linen dyed with onionskin and wool yarns dyed with alder and madder. Caps and stockings are some of the products now ready to be used.

Example of products coloured with onion skins

  • A market analysis is part of the TRADEMARK Color&Cloth project. Can you explain the objectives and main results of this analysis?

It was assumed that consumers would accept plant-dyed textiles.

The following conclusions result from the market analysis:

  • Natural fibre, which is coloured with natural dyes, is more credible.
  • Consumers associate natural dyes with health and skin compatibility.
  • Natural dyes are individual, exclusive and - from this point of view - different from conventional dyes. They represent nature, the cycle of nature and a participation in the cycle of nature and environmental awareness, a sense of responsibility and fairness.

The following disadvantages of natural colours should be eliminated from the marketing concept:

  • Natural dyes are less genuine than synthetic colours.
  • The colour palette is limited.
  • Naturally dyed textiles are more expensive.
  • Raw materials for the natural dyes are less well-known.

Possible marketing measures are recommended such as increasing confidence in the fastness of the dyes (light -, rub -, wash- and sweat-fastness), possible through quality seals, the promotion of the colour palette of natural dyes and of the sources of the raw materials. It is also necessary to promote the high quality of the products resulting in higher prices.

It is important to communicate the personal emotional advantages: exclusivity and naturalness - the plants are all natural.

In order to make it possible for customers to differentiate plant-dyed textiles from those, which are coloured with synthetic colorants, creating an own-label for plant dyes is recommended. As a preliminary stage, however, it is necessary to introduce the "plant-dyed" specification to establish a corresponding market gap.

  • Today, what products does TRADEMARK Color&Cloth propose?

As an innovative model, a ready-to-dye kit including vegetable material as the dyestuff source was developed. This should convey the idea and also at the same time provide the first results of the project. The kit can be used by dyers as well as school students and all those who are interested in plant dyeing. An important criterion for the plant dye kit was that some dyeing companies had already attempted to create their own dyeing kits but could not mass produce these due to different difficulties.

The plant-dye kit consists of a cardboard or a wooden box, which contains the following elements:

  • Information booklet about the plant dye kit with a sample card for the definition of the colour standard and an instruction sheet for colouring with plant dyes
  • Dyeing bag of 5 raw materials: (black tea pomace, Canadian goldenrod, onion paring, ash bark, nutshell)
  • Wool (5 skeins of 10g in two strengths respectively) and polyamide (stockings); Mordant (15g from alum and iron (II) sulphate respectively)

The plant dye kit can be sold as an independent commercial product and contributes in such a way to the spreading of knowledge about plant dyeing and the applicability of the dyeing method in operational use. Customers will most likely be schools, DIY shops or commercial textile enterprises. The presentation of the plant-dye kit took place via a press conference, a workshop and company visits. At the Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics and at the Wolford AG company the kit was presented to pupils and teachers.

  • Who are the targets of TRADEMARK Color&Cloth dyes?

Since price pressure is very high in the textile market, initially plant dyeing can only be used on high-quality textiles: linen, polyamide wool and cotton.

  • What is the current market share of plant dyes in Austria?

The state-of-the-art in Austria for industrial dye houses is that they use synthetic dyes with high quality at very low costs. Natural dyes are not used on an industrial scale, natural dyes are only cultivated on a very small scale and there is still a missing link between plant dyes and dyehouses.

  • What are the next steps of TRADEMARK Color&Cloth?

The next step is to minimize the risks along the value-added chain of plants through the provision of colouring pigments. The current project of the Austrian Institute of Applied Ecology is called RISKMIN and its aim is to develop a business plan.

The ongoing RISKMIN project will establish a business plan for use of TRADEMARK Color&Cloth results

  • Could you briefly describe the RISKMIN project?

The principal purpose of the RISKMIN project is to promote the regeneration of raw and residual materials from the food- and woodworking-industry as well as from agricultural cultivation in the field of textile colouring.

This goal will be achieved by locating and minimizing the ecological, economic, technological, logistic, legal and organizational risks along the value chain as well as the development of a business plan for the establishment of an enterprise for the processing of plant dyes and the development of a concept for a demonstration project.

  • Which companies could provide raw materials?

Along the value chain of plant dyes for the textile industry, there exist agricultural enterprises (cultivators of colouring plants, bulb farmers), companies from the food-processing industry (of juices, and distillate manufacturers, bulb wholesale dealers), from the wood-working industry (sawmills) and from the textile industry (colouring enterprises, textile processing plants, the Clothing trade).

  • Could you give details of each stakeholder's needs?

The requirements and expectations of the individual members of the value chain are orientated towards previous market structures, whereby the farmers were predominantly focused on acceptance warranties and price guarantees. Wood-working companies don’t deal with quality management systems for their residual substances and colouring companies so far only deal with synthetic colours.

A substantial result of the Geissler et al. (2003, 2001) and Rappl et al. (2005) projects was that colouring companies prefer a partner for all plant dyes, who guarantees an all-season supply of uniform raw materials at given quality standards. Hence it follows that the supplier has to standardize the plant material and guarantee colour qualities and authenticity levels for the vegetable raw and residual substances. The supply of the plant dyes should be possible under the offered conditions and prices and with short delivery times. Colouring companies would prefer to receive currently fashionable colours quickly and at the lowest possible price. The applicability of the plant dye on existing machines should be as similar as possible to the use of synthetic colours.

  • What are the foreseen achievements of the RISKMIN project?

A business plan will be developed to set up a company specializing in the processing of plant dyes. Such a company will be the partner requested by the colouring companies to provide plant dyes and quality assurance. Additionally, it will be responsible for acquiring plant dyes from different raw material sources, as well as standardization, packaging and storage.

In order to implement plant dyeing in practical terms, a concept for a demonstration project will be developed.

At the end of the project, a concept to minimize risk along the value chain of plant dyes, a business plan for the establishment of an company for the processing of plant dyes as well as a concept for a demonstration project will be available.

  • According to your experience on this project, could you tell us your feelings about the future of cleaner production in the textile industry in Austria?

The state-of-the-art in Austria for industrial dye houses is that they use synthetic dyes with high quality at very low costs. Natural dyes are not used on an industrial scale, natural dyes are only cultivated on a very small scale and there is still a missing link between plant dyes and dyehouses.

But our visions are:

  • Plant-dyed textiles in Austrian shops
  • Fibres and plant dyes produced in Austria, dyed in an Austrian dyehouse and
  • Manufactured in an Austrian textile processing company.

Christian Pladerer, Project-leader of "TRADEMARK Color&Cloth"

Austrian Institute of Applied Ecology pladerer@ecology.at

To go further ... the detailed list of participating institutions and companies

Science:

Institute of Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics Dornbirn (University of Leopold-Franzens, Innsbruck), Studiengang Product- & Projectmanagement, University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt – Business, Engineering, Healthcare

LEADER + Region:

Regionalentwicklungsverein Auland Carnuntum

Industry:

Textile Industries:

Wolford AG, Bischof Strickwaren KG, Fritsch Färberei GmbH, Terra Verde ProduktionsGmbH

Winegrower and Winemaker: Taufratzhofer – Lebensmittel und Biotechnologie

Agriculture, Forestry, Food and Beverages Industries:

Felix Austria GmbH, Sonnentor Kräuterhandels GmbH, Karl Wais GmbH. – Gemüsegroßhandel, Gölles Schnapsbrennerei und Essigmanufactur GmbH, Grünewald Fruchtsaft GmbH, Rauch Fruchtsäfte Ges.m.b.H. & Co

Promotion:

PlanB Werbeagentur GmbH

More about the Austrian "Factory of Tomorrow" Programme

More: http://www.fabrikderzukunft.at/english.htm Deutsch

“The use of non-renewable resources is minimized, ecological damage is reduced over the complete production chain and the value of agricultural areas is increased.”

“In order to make it possible for customers to differentiate plant-dyed textiles from those which are coloured with synthetic colorants, creating an own-label for plant dyes is recommended.”

“Colouring enterprises prefer a partner for all plant dyes, who guarantees an all-season supply of uniform raw materials at given quality standards.”

“At the end of the project, a concept to minimize risk along the value chain of plant dyes, a business plan for the establishment of an company for the processing of plant dyes as well as a concept for a demonstration project will be available.”

More about the standardization process for raw materials

The standardisation of raw materials proved to be a major technical challenge of the project. Christian Pladerer gives details of this technical issue.

Where did the raw materials come from?

Concerning the supply of raw materials, residual materials from the food and the wood-working industry are available in sufficient quantities. For dyeing plants, some potential growing areas exist in Austria, which was demonstrated in the preceding project (GEISSLER et al., 2003). Still, very little cultivation has been done up to now. For dyeing tests, the residual materials have been delivered by the companies in sufficient quantity, the dyeing plants are available on the market. At present, the interesting residual materials from the food industry can be obtained at low costs and without any problems; an exception is the disposal costs of beetroot that are so high a new method of disposal is needed. The price for the residual materials is mainly due to the additional processing costs (taking out of the waste stream, sorting, storage and drying).

Why is standardization mandatory for the textile industry?

A substantial result of the Geissler et al. (2003, 2001) and Rappl et al. (2005) projects was the message that colouring companies prefer a partner for all plant dyes, who guarantees an all-season supply of uniform raw materials at given quality standards. Hence it follows that the supplier has to standardize plant materials and guarantee colour qualities and authenticity levels for raw and residual vegetable substances.

How was the standardization process for raw material developed?

Regarding raw material standardization, the photometric measurements of dye concentrations were investigated. The result is that the photometric measurements of the Canadian goldenrod (Flavonoide) is not suitable for the determination of the dye concentration and therefore for standardization. In contrast, with dyes from grape parings (anthocyane), a photometric determination of the dye concentration is a promising method for standardization.

The results show a direct relation between colour depth and the analytically determined concentration of extractable anthocyane. With rising concentration of extractable anthocyane, the colour depth rises.

For all other raw materials, several standardization methods were examined respectively and the following standardization procedure was specified - together with the raw material, colour samples are developed according to the colouring guidelines, and later optically compared to the sample. If no conformity is given, the liquor ratio or the mixture of the basic material with other raw material batches is varied before the dyeing is repeated and again optically controlled. In principle, it could be shown that the raw material consistency is very high and that only a few raw material batches had to be discarded. For optimal standardization, the exact definition of the processing of the raw materials is very important. Further research is needed in this area.