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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Nike Partners with Dutch Company to Foray Into Waterless Dyeing

I wrote about the innovative, waterless dyeing technique pioneered by a Dutch company, DyeCoo in August last year. It appears that Nike liked the look of this technology and will now be working with the company to reduce water use. The technique uses recycled carbon dioxide to dye synthetic fibers and uses absolutely no water.

Nike has been exploring the process for about eight years now, and later this year products using DyeCoo's process will begin to retail. Waterless dyeing could prove to be a boon for manufacturing plants in Asia which are dealing with massive amounts of pollution. Water pollution is one of the biggest problems associated with fabric dyeing and Asia is the world's hotspot for the dyeing industry.

According to GreenBiz, "It is estimated that 100-150 liters (about 26-40 gallons) of water is needed to process one kg (2.2 pounds) of textile materials. Industry analysts estimate that more than 39 million tons of polyester will be dyed annually by 2015."

Considering these statistics, waterless dyeing may be the way forward. Water is also an important part of the dyeing process itself, as it is used in textile pretreatment as well as finishing processes like washing, scouring, and bleaching. With the increase in water scarcity as well as water pollution, any methods to reduce the need for water should be encouraged. According to the World Bank, 72 toxic chemicals are released in to water ways solely from textile dyeing. Textile coloring and treatment accounts for between 17 to 20 percent of global industrial pollution. Many of these chemicals released into water bodies cannot be removed very easily, and they not only affect aquatic life but also farmlands and the local water table.

DyeCoo wasn't always a Nike supplier and it is a terrific start for a young company to team up with a global player to change their supply chain. According to DyeCoo, their technology eliminates water consumption and discharges, reduction in energy use and air emissions, as well as elimination of many chemicals used. Additionally, the CO2 used to process the fabric can be recycled.

Eric Sprunk, Nike’s vice president of merchandising and product said that, "We believe this technology has the potential to revolutionise textile manufacturing, and we want to collaborate with progressive dye houses, textile manufacturers and consumer apparel brands to scale this technology and push it throughout the industry."

The same SCF CO2 technology that DyeCoo uses also has many other applications such as decaffeination of coffee as well as extraction of natural flavours and fragrances. However, they are the first company to apply it to dyeing of polyester fiber and are still working on using it for cellulosic and synthetic fabrics.

The process also said to have a cost-benefit for Nike although there is no indication exactly how much they'll be saving. There is also no announcement of whether SCF CO2 dyed products will cost more than conventionally dyed apparel.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

Read more stories by Akhila Vijayaraghavan