We all love colors - but should we?

Color preferences are deeply rooted in emotional responses that seem to lack any rational basis, yet the powerful influence of color rules our choices in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we buy.

Color has a powerful psychological influence on the human brain. They even say that picking the shade of color you are most allured by gives you deeper insight into your psyche and natural instincts.

We believe that the beauty of the color is in the eye of the beholder.

Dyeing discharge in a river
Image from Monsorganic Market

Mankind attraction for coloring the fabrics started a long time ago. The first records date back to 3500 BC. In these ancient times, the dyeing was made using salt, urine, and dung. The process was so unpleasant it was confined to the outskirts of the cities and done by the poor. Well, not much has changed.

In 1856, William Perkin, an Englishman, discovered the use of synthetic dyes. He developed a wide range of colorfast, bright hues and since then, the dye industry grew enormously.

With the great invention came a great problem for our environment.

It is estimated that over 10 000 different dyes and pigments are used industrially and over 700 000 tons of synthetic dyes are annually produced worldwide. In the textile industry, up to 200 000 tons of these dyes are lost to effluents every year during dyeing and finishing operations, due to the inefficiency of the dyeing process. Dyeing is an excruciating process. It is an extreme source of pollution and great concern to environmentalists. Presence of sulfur, naphthol, vat dyes, nitrates, acetic acid, soaps, enzymes, chromium compounds and heavy metals like copper, arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, nickel, and cobalt and certain auxiliary chemicals all collectively make the textile effluent highly toxic.

The color associated with textile dyes not only causes aesthetic damage to the water bodies but also prevents the penetration of light through water, which leads to a reduction in the rate of photosynthesis and dissolved oxygen levels affecting the entire aquatic biota. The textile dyes also act as toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic agents, persist as environmental pollutants and cross entire food chains providing biomagnifications, such that organisms at higher trophic levels show higher levels of contamination compared to their prey.

Dyeing processes can cause significant harm to workers' health.

The exposure to these chemicals can cause nose, lung, brain, and blood (leukemia) cancer, which can be fatal. It can also cause respiratory diseases, thyroid problems, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other skin problems (such as eczema, dermatitis, peel off, discoloration, etc.)

One of the worst compounds of dyeing is chromium. Chromium is known as a cancer-causing chemical since the 1920s, chrome 6 is especially dangerous to the lungs. Chromium and its side effects caught the public eye when the case against Pacific Gas & Electric was filed in the US. In the movie “Erin Brockovich”, Pacific Gas and Electric is portrayed as a corporate giant that poisoned the water of the small town of Hinkley, California. The movie, which is based on a real lawsuit, suggests that high levels of chromium-6 in the groundwater were responsible for an eclectic range of diseases among residents there, including various cancers, miscarriages.

The textile dyeing process is consuming a lot of water.

On average, a textile mill that produces 8000 kg of clothes a day spends 1.6 million liters of water in the process. 16% of the water is consumed in the dyeing process. Specific water consumption for dyeing varies from 30 - 50 liters per kg of cloth depending on the type of dye used. Water is also required for washing dyed and printed fabric and yarn to achieve washing fastness and bright backgrounds. Washing agents like caustic soda based soaps; enzymes, etc. are used for the purpose. This removes the surplus color and pastes from the substrate. Water is also needed for cleaning the printing machines to remove the loose color paste from printing blankets, printing screens, and dyeing vessels. To put it into perspective, it takes about 1900 liters of water to produce enough fabric to cover one sofa.

River polluted due dyeing flush
Image from Green Peace

The World Bank estimates that 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and finishing treatment given to fabric. Some 72 toxic chemicals have been identified in water solely from textile dyeing, 30 of which cannot be removed. This represents an appalling environmental problem for clothing and textile manufacturers.

But what should we do then? Shouldn´t we have colors around us then anymore?

Fortunately, not all dyeing methods are harmful. No reason to stop loving colors!

There is an alternative to this problem. Many brands and startups are developing new innovative ways to dye textiles without the toxicity of the old dyeing methods, including bacterial dyeing, using plants or natural pigments instead of synthetic dyes or even eliminating the dyeing process from textile manufacturing completely.

In Gelatex Technologies, we have done exactly that - there is no dyeing step in our production. But this does not mean that Gelatex material cannot have a color. Our team of scientists and engineers have developed a method that enables us to lock the pigments inside the fibers already during the fiber spinning process.

Gelatex material's main ingredient is gelatin - a versatile natural protein derived by upcycling the by-products of the meat processing industry. We mix the gelatin into a solution and use a proprietary method of spinning gelatin into an insoluble nanofibrous mesh. Once the mesh is created we are able to finish it or combine it with other materials to make it suitable for different applications.

The coloring of Gelatex material is done intrinsically.

eco-friendly no toxic dyeing colours

No toxic chemicals are used to dye the Gelatex textile and there is no wastewater or solid waste created in the process. We have zero-waste production. We color our textiles by adding natural pigments before we make the fibers. The color is being locked in a fiber. This means that the color is long-lasting and doesn’t fade out easily.

Gelatex has now Light Camel, Grass Green, Salmon Pink, Dusty Grey, and Night Black as color options! Contact us for more information.

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