- Usage of synthetic dyes in textiles leads to a substantial production of dye wastewater, which when released untreated, can have long-term impacts on soil and water bodies, posing risks to both human and ecological health.
- In 2012, Charaka Handloom Cooperative in rural Karnataka switched from synthetic dyes to natural ones extracted from leaves, nuts and berries, to create a diverse spectrum of colours.
- While there do exist challenges in natural dyeing, such as limitations in the range of colours it can generate, fabrics it can suit and even the scalability, the natural dye consultants believe that technological advancements will bring improvements.
The textile industry in India, accounts for more than two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provides direct employment to 45 million people. This water-intensive industry, however, is also a polluting one, as it generates one-fifth of the world’s industrial water pollution.
Wastewater generated after the dyeing stage in the textile manufacturing process, has impacted several water bodies in the country and across the world. Usage of synthetic dyes leads to a substantial production of dye wastewater, which, when released untreated, can have long-term impacts on soil and water bodies, posing risks to both human and ecological health.
What if natural and eco-friendly products like supaari, pomegranate or betel nuts can colour our clothes?
To reduce the impact of synthetic textile dyes on water bodies, Charaka Handloom Cooperative in rural Karnataka switched from synthetic dyes to natural ones in 2012, to create a diverse spectrum of colours. Natural dyes, extracted from naturally available material such as roots, berries and plants, are eco-friendly, non-hazardous and sustainable.
Terence Peter, CEO, Charaka Handloom Cooperative says, “Well, we actually use six ingredients for natural dyes. The major one is adike chogaru which is areca nut, betel nut syrup. This is a natural syrup and is grown in the surrounding areas. This is the one used in maximum. Next, we use pomegranate skin. We’ll get it from the local market, get it dried and we just boil and get some colours from it. Two to three colours come from pomegranate skin. But the most used, of course, again is the areca nut syrup.”
Areca nut syrup, locally called adike chogaru, is a by-product formed during processing areca nuts to be sold in the market. The syrup is usually thrown away as waste. Now, the situation has changed. After Charaka Handloom Cooperative utilised the syrup’s potential as a natural dye, farmers now sell it to earn additional income.
What makes areca nut a good natural dye? Jagada Rajappa, Natural Dye Consultant at Charaka, explains — “The property of the areca nut solution contains a certain kind of tannin in it. It is good enough to fix a colour onto the fibre or onto the yarn. There are a lot of farmers cultivating areca nut. About two decades ago it was wasted. They didn’t know what to do with it. When I went there two-three decades back, we wanted to experiment with it. We got a colour as good as Acacia arabica. We decided to use it as the local dye material. That would benefit farmers, traders will benefit, and employment can be generated through the process.”
While there do exist challenges in natural dyeing, such as a high water requirement, limitations in the range of colours it can generate, fabrics it can suit and even the scalability, Rajappa feels these can be tackled with technological advancements.
“Now with the innovation of newer equipment, we are using enzymes, wetting agents, and the streaming method. So, with that steaming method, you only need one-fourth of the water,” he adds.
Banner image: A women from Charaka Cooperative with fabric dyed with Adhike Chogaru. Photo by T. A. Amreeudheen/Mongabay.