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Demand grows for cleaner denim dyes

Demand grows for cleaner denim dyes2019.03.06

Archroma has told Ecotextile News that due to a higher than expected demand for its for ‘Denisol Pure Indigo 30’ it’s had to triple the planned production for this dye, with all the pre-reduced liquid indigo capacity at its Pakistan facility now earmarked for its manufacture.

The Swiss-based textile chemical specialist explains that shortly after the launch of its new denim indigo dye at Planet Textiles in Vancouver last year, it “encountered a high demand for the product on the market.” In part, this is due to aniline – an indigo precursor molecule –coming under increasing regulatory scrutiny and being restricted through retail and brands RSL and MRSLs.
Archroma says this new synthetic indigo liquid is ‘free from aniline’ at current analytical levels of detection.

“As more and more of the key export-oriented, sustainability-driven denim mills request for mill trials,” a spokesperson for Archroma told us, “we foresee that at the end of the third quarter of 2019, 100 per cent of our pre-reduced indigo production in Jamshoro, Pakistan will be dedicated to the production of Denisol Pure Indigo 30.”

After its launch in May 2018, Archroma says it is making unexpected, but substantial market progress with its new pre-reduced ‘Denisol Pure Indigo 30’ dye, which is said to be free of any aniline – according to the detection limits of current testing methods.
The company is making the new dye in its zero liquid discharge facility in Pakistan and is notable because although essential for producing traditional indigo blue shades, aniline is now being increasingly restricted by apparel retailers and brands and has also fallen under the radar of EU and US regulators.

“True to our commitment towards continuous innovation, Archroma challenges the status quo in the deep belief that we can make our industry sustainable,” said Alexander Wessels, CEO of Archroma. “Denisol Pure Indigo is result of our efforts to challenge accepted technologies in order to find a better way to advance sustainability, and it is therefore extremely exciting to see that brands, retailers and manufacturers are eager to offer a more sustainable denim to consumers.”

Although aniline is a precursor to synthetic indigo production, it can be present as an impurity in both indigo powder and pre-reduced indigo solutions – sometimes at high concentrations. But unlike other chemical impurities that can be washed off the denim yarns or fabric after dyeing, Archroma says aniline gets locked into the indigo pigment when the synthetic indigo is oxidised during the usual denim dyeing process.

It’s also restricted by several environmental standards such as Oeko-Tex and bluesign, and the EU and the US EPA are increasing their scrutiny of this chemical, a suspected carcinogen that can cause skin allergies, which is also associated with hypoxia, damage to internal organs through prolonged or repeated exposure, and is very toxic to aquatic life.

However, some in the industry think that the problem of aniline in the denim sector is somewhat over-stated.

“Aniline is not only used as a building block for indigo dyes,” says our resident expert on dyeing Phil Patterson, “It’s used in pharmaceutical manufacture, it’s present in other dye formulations, and over three quarters of the volume (produced) is used as a building block for MDI, a key, common component of polyurethane. So, taking aniline out of circulation and managing it to non-detectable levels isn’t going to happen … and maybe shouldn’t happen.”

That said, with its new product seemingly gaining increased traction, it could be just one of a range of other steps towards a new recipe for unnecessary pollution, improved consumer safety – along with much safer denim dyeing.


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