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AirDye Technology: Removing Water from the Textile Industry

The Answer to a 4,000-year-old Problem

By Brigid Darragh   

Access to clean water is becoming more of a luxury and less of a civil right in countries around the world, with the latest figures estimating as many as one-third of the world's people living without it.

In many places, private companies are making a fortune by charging citizens for water that has been treated, leaving those who can't afford or access these companies with little choice, but to use one source for bathing, washing, cooking, and drinking.

Water is used in everything from irrigation to raising livestock... to dying textiles for the clothing we wear.

But the textile industry is one of the most villainous sectors when it comes to waste and pollution of fresh water sources...

The World Bank estimates that 17-20% of today's industrial pollution is the result of the textile coloring and treatment, contributing to 72 toxic chemicals in water supplies, 30 of which are permanent.

Trillions of gallons of water are used and destroyed by traditional textile dyeing methods each year. During some tentative research of the textile industry, I came across one estimate that attributed the use of anywhere between 7 and 75 gallons of water per pound of fabric in order to color a single garment.

The way we use and misuse water is becoming a serious issue, as a growing number of countries struggle to provide people with acceptable drinking water and industries continue to pollute water sources with archaic and wasteful production processes.

The 4,000-year-old tradition of dyeing textiles has always involved the use of water to carry the dye or color to fabric... and with the start of this tradition was the beginning of early water pollution.

Formative techniques in the textile world evolved into the use of different fabrics, such as nylon and polyester, which required heavier chemical and dye treatments, thus more waste and pollution of water. 

But today, a company called AirDye has a new technology looks to change all that — by dyeing textiles without water.

AirDye technology hails from Colorep, Inc., a California-based company seeking to improve the sustainability in the dye and printing world. Colorep is described on the website as "a world innovator... passionate about creating new printing and dyeing technologies that improve quality, value, and accessibility while helping to sustain the planet."

The dyeing process with AirDye technology greatly reduces pollution by avoiding the use of screen printing machines, drying ovens, and cleaning chemicals. Water pollution is eliminated, as the technology uses air instead of water to convey the dye to fabric during the color application process.

And in using air instead of water during the dyeing and printing, the process is therefore simplified, creating new possibilities in the industry and future employment opportunities for regions of the world lacking water sources with which to dye or print fabrics via the traditional process.

And, as the company's website boasts, AirDye "gives consumers a way to choose style and sustainability at a realistic price at the point of purchase, thereby initiating world change."

AirDye also boasts a superior quality garment, as a result of the fact that the dye is in the fibers of the fabric rather than on them, keeping bleach and detergents from fading. The colors last longer, look richer, and are produced in a more environmentally friendly and cost-sound process.

AirDye's fashions have been the talk of radio shows and headlines, and last fall, they made their way to the runway in New York. In September 2009, Costello Tagliapietra debuted AirDye on the runway during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. When the Costello Tagliapietra S/S 2010 collection is available in stores, it will be the first with an AirDye tag.

Take a look at the latest line using AirDye technology during Fashion Week:

Costello Tagliapietra from Starworks Digital on Vimeo.

Each Costello Tagliapietra dress dyed and printed with AirDye technology will save: 45 gallons of water / 95 megajoules of energy / 3 kilograms of greenhouse gas.

AirDye is going green while being fashion forward.


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