The new Earthcolors are derived from almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves and other natural agricultural waste

The new Earthcolors are derived from almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves and other natural agricultural waste

Colour and specialty chemicals company Archroma has unveiled a new range of eco-friendly dyes derived from agricultural waste that can also be fully traced along the supply chain to consumers.

The new Earthcolors range of "biosynthetic" dyes for cotton and cellulose-based fabrics are derived from almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves and other natural agricultural waste products that would otherwise be sent to landfill. They can be used to provide rich red, brown and green colours to denim and casualwear.

Not only will brand owners have full transparency along the complete supply chain, but shoppers, too, will be able to access this information using a smartphone.

All information about individual batches of colour will be included on hang-tags attached to each item of clothing. And, in a move thought to be the first of its kind, each hang-tag will incorporate this information in a chip that can be accessed in the shop using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology incorporated into a phone.

NFC is "more sophisticated and more consumer friendly" than RFID ( Radio Frequency Identification), which many retailers already use for tracking products. Archroma hopes it will provide shoppers with a more "involved" buying experience. The chip can contain information such as the mill that dyed the fabric and where the garment was laundered, as well as the source of bio-based raw material.

"Our aim is to give consumers a choice," says Alan Cunningham, head of textiles dyes marketing at Archroma. "We all should have the possibility to choose the fashion option with the least environmental impact and to be safe in the knowledge that there is substance behind what is claimed on the label."

The new biosynthetic sulfur dyes have been four years in the making, and offer the overall performance of the company's existing range of sulfur dyes made from conventional raw materials. Archroma describes this new development as a step-change in dyes manufacturing and coloration technology.

To make Earthcolors, biomass from waste products of the agriculture and herbal sectors is transformed in a patent-pending process. "Not one square metre of land is set aside to grow the raw material for these dyes, so there is no competition for arable land," says Cunningham.

The new range is produced near Barcelona, Spain, with all raw materials sourced from within a radius of 500 km.