How We Can Dye Polyester and Save Our Water

TAU recently announced an investment deal with DyeCoo, a company that creates waterless dyeing machines. Amongst the various investment opportunities for sustainable technology in fashion and textiles, we believe waterless dyeing is one of the surest means of making a major environmental impact today.

But not only do we believe in waterless dyeing technology: we also specifically believe that waterless dyeing of polyester is the path towards a sustainable future in fashion. 

First off, let’s consider why waterless dyeing is so crucial to transforming textile manufacturing. Like other industries, fashion has a massive carbon footprint. But unlike many sectors, fashion also has a huge waste water problem. The industry consumes 21 trillion gallons of water each year. Standard dyeing processes use enormous amounts of water to bind dye to fabric: afterwards, manufacturers simply dispose of that dirty water, chemicals and all, into rivers and oceans.

In fact, 20 percent of total industrial water pollution comes from textile dyes. Textile dyeing does not just generate water waste either: wet processes also account for 15% of the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Waterless dyeing can solve fashion’s waste water problem by using carbon dioxide to responsibly dye textiles. With this technology, machines heat carbon dioxide until it becomes “supercritical”—the state between a liquid and a gas—where it can operate like water does, binding the chemical dye to textiles. But unlike water, at the end of one dyeing cycle the carbon dioxide can be used again, making it a truly sustainable technology.

Waterless dying is also faster and more effective than traditional water methods, which makes it more energy efficient as well. DyeCoo estimates that its dyeing technology is 50 percent more energy efficient than traditional dyeing methods.

DyeCoo’s waterless dyeing machines are used on polyester fabric, and for maximum environmental benefit, they can be used on recycled polyester. When most people think of sustainable fabrics, they think of materials like organic cotton. But in many cases, recycled polyester is actually a smarter choice. 60% of textiles are already made with polyester—and this means that when it comes to recycling, we need to focus on recycling that polyester. Nor can we entirely rid ourselves of polyester anyway: few people will be happy to run a marathon or face a rainstorm in organic cotton.

By using waterless dyeing on recycled polyester, we will be able to produce textiles at scale that will fit the average consumer’s needs and budget, while dramatically reducing the industry’s carbon and water footprint.

Waterless dyeing needs to be adopted by major textile manufacturers in order to make a meaningful environmental impact. Imagine a world where the majority of our wardrobe, not just a select few items, is made up of recycled fabrics dyed without water. In order to see this future, we need to back technology that will bring about industry change at scale: at TAU, we believe that companies like DyeCoo can do just that. 

By Oliver Niedermaier

Founder, Chairman and CEO