LIFE SEACOLORS - Demonstration of new natural dyes from algae as substitution of synthetic dyes actually used by textile industries

LIFE13 ENV/ES/000445

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Contact person: Simona MOLDOVAN
Tel: 34965542200
Fax: 34965543494
Email: smoldovan@aitex.es

Project description:


The textile industry leaves one of the largest water footprint in the world and dyeing poses an especially big problem. Textiles industries use vast amounts of different mostly synthetic dyes which cause a number of environmental problems due to the number of hazardous chemicals (alkalis, acids, solvent and on) needed to produce those dyes. These problems include significant amounts of hazardous waste and wastewater. According to the Wold Bank, dyeing industries are responsible for 20% of all industrial polluted water. Natural dyes, on the other hand, are safer than synthetic dyes as they do not pose hazardous risks and possess better biodegradable characteristics. The problem at the moment is that natural dyes are an uncompetitive option because they are more complex to produce and require more time and resources.


The objective of the LIFE SEACOLORS project was to demonstrate that it is possible to use algae, a sustainable and renewable resource, to produce natural dyes. After validating the process the second objective of the project was to test and assess whether these new natural dyes could conclusively replace synthetic dyes in the textile industry. To ensure that these new dyes can be substituted effectively to the synthetic ones, the project had to ensure that they could come in a wide range of colours and a high variety of shades. To achieve this within the project’s time span, the consortium focused initially on a mixture of three colours: red, yellow and blue to then develop other colours in the chromatic scale. SEACOLOURS selected different types of algae with high dye capacity and potential for mass cultivation and optimised their growth conditions to improve their dye content.


The LIFE SEACOLORS project successfully demonstrated and validated a new process for obtaining natural dyes from algae and replacing the use of synthetic dyes in the textile industry. SEACOLORS selected 8 microalgae and cyanobacteria as well as 6 seaweed species with high potential for their industrial exploitation as dye producers. It also developed an optimised cultivation process for these algae and seaweeds, allowing them to grow outdoors and produce high amounts of pigments.

SEACOLORS also validated and demonstrated the applicability of the newly sources colourants in two different textile finishing methods (dyeing and printing). It showed that it is possible to extract colourants from algae and apply them in a textile dyeing process on cotton and wool. SEACOLORS then improved the dyeing process to obtain good quality dyed fabrics while minimising the need for chemicals.

Making the switch from using synthetic dyes (obtained from non-renewable resources) to using these more environmentally friendly dyes would lead to a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and CO2 production. The project found that the algae dyes examined also had great potential in terms of substituting natural and synthetic colourants from other sources. Switching to using algae dyes would therefore decrease the use of chemicals as well as the production of plant origin dyes which takes up large arable lands and reduce both land use and CO2 production. Furthermore, since natural dyes are more biodegradable, this will lead to a significant decrease in the polluted waste water effluents generated in the process of producing synthetic dyes, reducing the cost of water treatment. In terms of the sustainability of the algae dyes the project demonstrated that the only nutrients required are CO2, solar light and waste water from aquaculture.

Furthermore, not only can the newly obtained raw material be used in other fields to solve some of the issues linked to the use of chemicals in industry, but the residual biomass resulting from the dyeing process can also be reused for the extraction of compounds relevant for other industries like cosmetics, pharma, feed and food. In addition, substituting algae dyes to synthetic dyes will lead a reduction in the amount of nutrients being released in marine coastal areas. Switching to algae will have no impact on biodiversity or on deforestation and will not lead to fresh water consumption or to the use of pesticides or fertilisers.

The results obtained by the project are relevant in terms of a new application of algae and in making the new dyeing/printing process more sustainable. The project hopes that the work it carried out on algae might have some influence in other sectors such as aquaculture or biotechnology and will be included in existing legislation.

While there have been a number of initiatives looking into developing products from algae in the food, cosmetic and energy sectors, the LIFE SEACOLORS project was the first time ever research was carried out into extracting natural dyes from algae for the textile industry.

The project’s results should bring about a number of economic benefits. Thanks to the project a new value added product is now on the market offering new solutions to companies and another use of algae beyond the more traditional ones like food or energy. The project opened new market for algae production companies and countries, like Spain and Portugal, that are surrounded by sea. This is turn should lead to job creation and an increase in skilled workforce.

In terms of human health SEACOLORS helped reduce the threats caused by synthetic dyes and offers more environmentally friendly products to consumers. Policy-wise, the project will contribute to the implementation of various EU environmental legislations such as the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU).

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Environmental management - Cleaner technologies
Environmental management - Eco-products design
Industry-Production - Textiles - Clothing


waste reduction‚  textile industry‚  pollutant elimination‚  hazardous waste‚  hazardous substance‚  waste water reduction‚  alternative technology

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Industry and Product Policy
  • Directive 2010/75 - Industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) (24.11.201 ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation Research institution
Description The private sector beneficiary (AITEX) is a non-profit association specialised in research, innovation and advanced technical services for the textile, manufacturing and technical textile sectors.
Partners ASEBIO(Spanish Bioindustry Association), Spain ALGAPLUS(Algaplus, Produção e Comercialização de algas e seus derivados), Portugal BEA-ULPGC(UNIVERSIDAD DE LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA), Spain


Project reference LIFE13 ENV/ES/000445
Duration 01-JUL-2014 to 31-DEC -2016
Total budget 697,273.00 €
EU contribution 348,635.00 €
Project location Comunidad Valenciana(España)


Read more:

Leaflet Leaflet (trifold) of the project
Newsletter "3rd Newsletter - 1 July 2016" (811 KB)
Newsletter First Newsletter (April 2015)
Newsletter Second newsletter (December 2015)
Newsletter "4th Newsletter - December 2016" (589 KB)
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version