Cotton Incorporated has collaborated with Archroma on what they believe is the first-ever dye derived from cotton plant residues. Dubbed EarthColors, the patented technology addresses two key concerns of the textile industry: sustainability and traceability.

The sulfur-based dyes are designed for use on cellulosic fibers, such as cotton. While most dyes in the textile industry are synthetic, using petrochemical bases, EarthColors is a biosynthetic alternative that utilizes 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,” said Mary Ankeny, Cotton Incorporated senior director of textile chemistry research. “Byproducts of cotton harvesting and ginning have been utilized within the food and construction industries for decades, but we were intrigued by the idea of using cotton biomass to dye cotton fiber.”

Archroma’s EarthColors application on cotton byproducts marks the first time the cotton plant has been used to actually dye cotton fabrics. Dyeing a natural fiber with dye processed with natural ingredients has appeal for many environmentally-conscious brands, a niche Archroma aimed to fill with the launch of the line in 2014.

Each batch of EarthColors dye also 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 by Archroma customers and even consumers through a smartphone, explains the manufacturing process of the dye and where the natural materials were sourced.

“We are grateful to Cotton Incorporated to have brought us this challenge. Archroma strives to challenge the status quo, and 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,” said Nuria Estape, Archroma head of global marketing.

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