Natural Dyes to Replace Synthetics?

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Natural alternatives to synthetic dyes are wide-spread in the green world. There are many DIY tutorials to be found on how to make your own natural dyes, and there is even a natural-dye production house in Chicago.

The Argentine National Institute for Industrial Technology (INTI) is taking alternative dyes a green step further.

The institute is experimenting with the extraction of pigments from agricultural waste and its conservation in dust form. 20 various materials have been tested yielding exciting results regarding peanut shells.

The INTI website states that the experiments are being explored by the Chemical Department of the institute. It observed the worldwide trend of reverting back to natural dyes. The INTI wants to make natural pigments more readily available, and also focus on reusing existing materials from the agriculture and agroindustrial sector.

Currently natural dyes are extracted by boiling vegetable products in water. The institute believes that extracting pigments in dust form will strengthen the availability of such dyes through seasons and unfavourable climate conditions. The company also believes the dust-form pigments will perform better with textiles.

It’s great to see a process like this in existence and even better that those involved focus on the process of recycling waste. The INTI has extracted colours from 20 various waste types including eucalyptus, aguaribay trees, sunflower seed shells, parsley, olive, laurel and lemon trees. Interestingly the ones that have worked the best include peanut shells, nuts pericarps, guayacan trees, carob tree liquids, romerillo, ash trees, yerba mate, onion, mistol, colliguay and palo pinche.

The experiments conducted by the INTI have opened up avenues for further discoveries relating to natural pigments. The studies have shown that textiles coloured with extracted dust are more resistant to washing and use than those dyed using the boiling water method. They are still very sensitive to light, like all natural colourants.

The peanut shell pigments have been cause for most of the excitement during the experimentation process. These colourants have similar characteristics to synthetic dyes. Since Argentina is one of the globe’s top exporters of peanut, this is great news; it’s widely and readily available.

The group plans to focus on other areas and the application of the natural dust-colourants including food, cosmetics, paint, paper and rubber. The application of these natural dyes in all aspects of life will not only improve the quality and healthiness of dyed products, but will also shed some light on one of the many ways recycling waste can benefit humankind.

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