Bacterial secretions could stain your future wardrobe and that would be an improvement.
That’s because textiles are usually given their hues by toxic chemicals, and the resulting effluent – laden with dyes, acids and formaldehyde – destroys rivers like those around it dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Wastewater treatment, when it occurs, is just one of the energy-intensive (read: carbon-spitting) processes that make fast fashion possible.
The environmental crises associated with textiles have spawned several companies aiming to completely reinvent dyeing. Such a company color fixjust got a boost from a $22.6million (£18million) Series B round led by a Swedish fashion giant HM.
Colorifix is notable for its advances in using microbes (like E. coli) to naturally apply dyes directly to fabrics. Its microorganisms are engineered to produce specific colors and then brewed in vats like beer.
A third-party life cycle analysis (paid for by Colorifix) found that its dyes used at least 49% less water and 35% less electricity than traditional cotton dyeing processes, which appears to reduce CO2 emissions by 31%. That’s true for natural fibers, but the benefits are greater for materials like polyester or nylon, which are generally made from petroleum and are more difficult to dye. “If you switch to plastics, we’re going to save a lot more,” added co-founder and chief scientific officer Jim Ajioka in a conversation with TechCrunch.
So, uh, how do you get microbes to make dyes? I asked Ajioka and he told me to check my shower for anything red.
“In a place like England you’re going to get mold, mildew and other things growing on the tiles. And you will see red bacteria [known as Serratia marcescens]. You put that color on your tile or your grout,” he explained. “That’s what we do.”
But to produce specific colors, Colorifix says it starts with identifying a specific color in nature, like a shade of green found on a parrot’s feather. The company then uses online DNA databases to “locate the exact genes that lead to the production of that pigment.” From there, Colorifix builds the DNA and inserts it into a small group of bacteria or yeast cells. Within a day, they multiply millions of times on a Petri dish. “The resulting artificial microbe then acts as a tiny biological factory,” the startup said in a statement, which ultimately makes dyes that stick to natural and synthetic materials.
If you zoom out, the fashion industry uses an enormous, basically unimaginable amount of water. A 2014 World Bank The report found that about 9 billion cubic meters of water passes through the industry each year – about five and a half times more than what NYC consumed in the same period. Alongside the images of Dhaka’s mangled rivers, the concept of dipping T-shirts in a bacterial soup suddenly seems tastier. But if you still find the idea of microbes swimming with your clothes a little off-putting, you’re not alone. I did that at first, and when I said that to Ajioka, he gave me a sip.
After the dyeing process, Ajioka explained, “Yes, you have to wash it. But you know, you wash your clothes all the time. Think of the number of bacteria currently on your t-shirt. It’s gross,” he said, specifically directing his comments at my shirt. Then came the questions. “Think about it. How do you wash your clothes? What does detergent do? It gets rid of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and oils and stuff, right? That’s what it’s made for, and what do you think microorganisms are made of? That’s why your clothes stink of that Don’t wash,” he added.
Cleanliness aside, Colorifix isn’t the only company aiming to develop low-cost, bacteria-produced dyes to curb pollution. They are joined by a Paris-based company pili and Vienna Textile Laboratory. So far, none of these companies have mass-produced the idea, making bacteria-dyed clothing difficult — but not impossible — to come by.
In December 2021, Colorifix dyes were used to produce a limited run of Tracksuits by Pangaia in two soft shades called Blue Cocoon and Midway Geyser Pink. Only the earlier color was still available when this story was published, for $170 in either Hooded Pullover or $140 trousers. Historically, Colorifix dyes have been used to: a Stella McCartney dressexhibited at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2018.
In other words, eco-hypebeasts: good luck.
Besides microbes, there are other companies aiming to crack sustainable dyes alchemya Cambridge, UK-based company that claims to have developed a waterless dyeing process; DyeCoo, a Dutch company that dyes fabrics with pressurized CO2; and based in New York ColorZenwhich does a pre-dyeing treatment for cotton that appears to reduce water use and eliminate that need for salts.
In addition to H&M, investors such as Sagana, Cambridge Enterprise and Regeneration.VC also participated in Colorifix’s Series B round. With the new money, the startup said it will triple the size of its team to about 120 people as it prepares to bring its technology “into the supply chains of several leading players in the global fashion industry.” The company declined to share more when asked how long I’ll have to wait to buy my own microbial-dyed t-shirt.
Steal this hot new summer look (it’s bacteria) – TechCrunch Source link Steal this hot new summer look (it’s bacteria) – TechCrunch