Researchers in Australia have figured out a way to grow colored cotton, eliminating the need to use potentially toxic chemical dyes.
The group responsible is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia (CSIRO).
The group is dedicated to improving sustainable natural fibers so that they can outperform synthetic fabrics.
“Synthetic microfibres end up staying in the environment and can do more damage than regular plastic, so it’s important we move away from that to safeguard the environment,” says Dr. Filomena Pettolin of CSIRO.
Designers and scientists alike are actively looking for ways to make the textile industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“On average, 60 % of our clothes are actually made of polyester, which lasts 200 years in a landfill, and we typically only use natural fibers in 6 %of our clothing,” says designer Stephanie Devine.
This is where naturally colored cotton can make a huge impact.
Cotton is renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. However, the chemical dyes used to color cotton are a huge source of environmental pollution.
The team at CSIRO have cracked cotton’s molecular code, adding in genes to make the plants produce a natural color.
“Having the cotton produce its own color is a game-changer,” Dr. MacMillan of CSIRO says.
“This [research] can really have the potential to transform the global textile industry because we’re making [colored] fibers that are still biodegradable, and still renewable.”
The cotton is finishing up growing in a laboratory setting and will be available commercially as early as next year.