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Cotton Incorporated And Archroma Redefine ‘100% Cotton’

By Stacey Gorman
Cotton Board, Director of Communications

The Cotton Research and Promotion Program aims to innovate cotton throughout the supply chain — from growing the crop to the processing and finishing of the final cotton garment. Cotton Incorporated has partnered with Archroma, a global leader in color and specialty chemicals, to use dye made from cotton to color 100 percent cotton fabric.

The two entities have collaborated to present what they believe is the first ever dye derived from cotton plant residues. EarthColors is Archroma’s innovative method of creating dyes in warm, neutral shades from nature.

EarthColors Technology
The patented technology addresses two key concerns of the textile industry: sustainability and traceability. These sulfur-based dyes are designed for use on cellulosic fibers, such as cotton. Although most dyes in the textile industry are synthetic, using petrochemicals (oil) as a base, EarthColors is a biosynthetic alternative that uses natural waste from the agricultural or herbal industry.

“As soon as we heard about the EarthColors technology, we wanted to explore the possibilities of cotton as a natural dye source,” says Mary Ankeny, Vice President, Product Development & Implementation Operations at Cotton Incorporated, who led the project from the organization’s side.

There is an ample supply of cotton biomass. The global volume of cotton harvesting and ginning byproducts, which includes burs, stems, immature bolls, lint, sticks and leaves, can be as much as three million tons per year.
Dyeing a natural fiber with dye processed with natural ingredients has appeal for many environmentally conscious brands — a niche Archroma strived to fill.

“Our EarthColors technology demonstrates our dedication to support and inspire sustainable fashion with warm colors that can be traced from the field to the shop,” says Nuria Estape, Head of Textile Specialties Global Marketing & Promotion, at Archroma.

Traceability Level
Indeed, each batch of EarthColors dye offers a high level of traceability in the form of a hangtag with a Near Field Communication chip. Data on the chip, which can be accessed through a smartphone, explains the manufacturing process of the dye and where the natural materials were sourced.

Cotton Incorporated first presented fabric samples dyed with the EarthColors cotton-derived dye in 2016 at the Premiere Vision trade fair in Paris, France. The knit and woven constructions, produced at Cotton Incorporated’s laboratories, demonstrate the range of brown hues achieved using 100 percent cotton biomass as the source.
This innovation is just another way Cotton Incorporated is exploring new markets to help make cotton more profitable. 

For further information, contact Stacey Gorman at sgorman@cottonboard.org.