Textile coloring

textile coloring dye

When considering the ecological impact of a garment, we must take into account all phases of its life cycle. That is to say, its cultivation, its harvest or its extraction, its transport, its transformation and its end of life. Among the elements to consider in its transformation, there are several elements to take into account and among these, the coloring of the textile is a very important one.

Why does coloring matter?

In fact, the manufacturing and use of synthetic or conventional dyes are two main elements of a garment's environmental impact. Although dyes can provide attractive results, they are two of the most polluting industries in the world. They present risks to the health of workers handling them daily, to consumers and to the environment.

toxic cycle in the textile industry


Indeed, it appears that dyes can reach the human body through absorption through the skin. It is currently being studied that some consumers may have skin reactions, nausea and breathing difficulties related to these. This is explained by the fact that synthetic dyes contain , among other things, heavy metals (chromium, copper, chromium, cobalt and zinc), phthalates, formaldehyde and dioxins. Also, the latter can or are suspected of disrupting the endocrine system (hormones) or causing cancer, particularly among textile workers.

Environmentally, Richard Blackburn of the Technical Textiles Center at the University of Leeds says that on average each kilo of finished fabric needs 80 to 100 liters of water to be dyed. For example, a t-shirt that weighs around 200 grams would use between 16 and 20 liters of water just for its coloring.

synthetic dyes

In addition, 80% of the dye would be retained by the fabric. The remaining 20% ​​would be evacuated during the rinsing stage. This discharge pollutes the water in which the dye comes into contact. Every year, the global textile industry releases 40,000-50,000 tonnes of dye into waterways. Some companies such as Lenzing have found a way to recover all the dyes. However, this is not true for all companies and some countries are not strict with their regulations on releases into the environment. To this must be added the evacuation of dyes through domestic washing water. Indeed, when we wash our clothes, it is possible that dye particles are released into our water treatment plants which are incapable of filtering everything and which in turn release them into our river system.

Finally, synthetic dyes pose a challenge because they are made from non-renewable resources, such as petroleum. Not only are they not renewable but fossil-bearing use releases C02.

What are the possible solutions?

Although there are regulations on clothing labels in Canada, they mainly target the fiber content of the clothing. This means that the type of coloring used does not have to be identified. That said, regulations on the identification of dyeing processes on clothing labels should be mandatory in order to protect citizens and the environment. Without this regulation, it is impossible to prevent the importation of clothing containing and releasing toxic product residues.

However, clothes that are dyed in Canada are subject to a set of laws and regulations both in terms of their content of toxic products and in terms of releases into the environment. Indeed, Canada has adopted the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) , which takes into account effluent from textile factories . So, since the beginning of the 2000s, our textile factories have been regulated both from the point of view of the materials used and the potential releases. It is therefore better to favor clothes that are dyed here rather than abroad.

dyed here rather than abroad

The most sustainable solution would be to wear clothes that are undyed or dyed with natural substances. However, there are very few solutions in this direction and it is unlikely that this shift will be considered in the short term. There are still good choices such as the OEKO-TEX standard 100 . This is an independent system created in Switzerland in 1992. This procedure is used to detect a rather exhaustive list of harmful substances in textiles. Buying OEKO-TEX® certified clothing therefore becomes a great eco-responsible solution.

In conclusion, as we have demonstrated on several occasions, it is complex to have “perfect” clothing in terms of ecological impact. The choice of textile is important but is not the only element to consider. The dye is a key element. Unfortunately, even if the garment says "made in Canada", that doesn't mean it's entirely made here. We produce very few textiles and also have very few dyeing factories for them. However, it is possible to search for clothes dyed here or those that are OEKO-TEX certified. Finally, it might be interesting to ask our Canadian designers to have their clothes analyzed and certified.

Ecologically yours,

eco loco


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