The Broadcast / The Dirty Business Of Textile Dyes

The Dirty Business Of Textile Dyes

Producing enduring fabrics is often a hugely carbon-intensive process; from manufacturing and processing fibres, to dyeing and finishing.

At Finisterre, we’re working to cut the impact of textile dyes to protect our ocean and waterways from damaging discharges of chemicals and wastewater. In 2022 we began working with researchers to map dye use across our supply chain.


3 min read

Images courtesy of Egidenez Textile

“Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.”

Source: World Bank

Roughly one million tonnes of dye are produced annually throughout the world and the textile dyeing industry consumes around two thirds of this. Once in the natural environment the chemical dyes can degrade causing harmful effects to the surrounding landscape, fauna and flora. Despite stricter regulations over the past few years on the discharge of waste dyes into mainstream water supplies, the level of dye waste in circulation is still a big problem.

Delving Into The Detail

To tackle the problem, we first needed to understand the true scope of it in relation to our own products.

Supported by Research England’s Knowledge Exchange, we teamed up with Lecturer and researcher, Charlotte Warren of Arts University Plymouth to initiate ‘dye mapping’ within our supply chain.

One of the key areas we have been looking into is how much dye is currently lost during our processes. Across the industry, typically 25% of dye is lost in waste effluent, but this can be as high as 60% for some dye classes.

We kicked off the project with two of our biggest suppliers investigating the environmental impact of colour decisions at the design stage. We looked at the type of dye used, chemical compound and application method, the waste treatment systems in place and the efficiency and uptake of dye on different fibre compositions within our collection.

The Work Continues...

We now have a much clearer understanding of the systems in place, but there is still work to be done. In 2023 we plan to extend this mapping to cover our entire supply chain.

The next step is to ensure all our dye facilities are adhering to the restrictions in place when treating and disposing of waste. As an example our waste treatment plant in Turkey uses a biological decomposition system, mirroring environmental factors which allows the dyes to degrade and be treated within an enclosed system.

The textile dyeing industry is complex but by continuing to assess how efficient and responsible our dyeing system is, we’re enabling our team to make more informed decisions in relation to textile dyes - ultimately leading to more sustainable and conscientious dyeing solutions.


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