Due to the growing environmental, health and social awareness consumers, the demand for sustainable materials, products and services is increasing. Many countries are rich in natural and renewable resources, such as the Philippines, and they often have the indigenous expertise on how to produce and process these resources in a sustainable way. This provides them with a competitive advantage compared to other countries. Therefore, environmental, health and social aspects do not always form a trade barrier, but rather they can be exploited as a market opportunity.
Dyes are materials that give color to substances such as yam, food, paper, cosmetics and cloth. History shows that ancient people considered color as important as their food and made color as an essential aspect of their fiberworks.
Colors out of plants can be ordinary colors, but knowing that these are natural and the materials dyed with these can command good price in the market make the difference. Plants, as one of the sources of dyes, have dye colors in their roots, root barks, leaves, flowers, barks, fruit peels, and nutshells. Some plants may give more than one color, whose hue or shade depends on the soil and weather conditions and time and age of harvest.
The economy should have only to realize that abundant dye sources are just around and having found another valuable use for these plants coupled with appropriate technology can encourage more people to conserve these resources and help revive the country’s natural dye industry.
This post focuses on opportunities for natural dye producers and processors. The intention of this post is to give an idea on what is happening on the market and to identify potential markets, locally and internationally.
Natural dyes have been produced by Philippine Textile and Research Institute (PTRI) in powder form with the use of a spray dyer and vacuum evaporator. The technology includes the effective extraction methods and textile dyeing applications. The powder dyes were found to have superior affinity to silk and wool materials and are also applicable to cellulose materials such as ramie, cotton, abaca and rayon. Similar to synthetic dyes, the natural dye powders have good shelf life and when applied, give reproducible intensity of color such as black, brown, red, yellow and violet. They exhibit good colorfastness to washing and sunlight.
Natural dye powders are also applicable in textile printing requiring the use of gum arabica. Natural dyes are mainly employed to dyeing natural fibers such as wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp and nettle. Natural dyes are however also used in other fields, such as:
- paints and varnishes of natural origin to be used in the eco-building industry;
- paints and pigments for artists and restorers willing to employ original materials and techniques;
- dyeing of vegetable tanned leather; and,
- natural cosmetics industry.
PTRI has found the talisay leaves as a rich source of black dye. This tree, which is also grown for ornamental purposes, is widely distributed throughout the Philippines and thrives abundantly in coastal areas.
According to PTRI, black shade can easily be obtained from talisay leaves using the standardized method of dye extraction that was developed by PTRI. This is part from the usual practice of getting a black tint using synthetic dye which involves a mixture of at least three (3) different dyes.
The emerging trend on the commercial use of talisay dyes on a commercial-scale is the result of PTRI’s establishment of standard technology on natural dye extraction and textile application.
PTRI now adopts standard measurement in the extraction and application of natural dyes in relation to the weight of the materials. It considers the size of the dye parts, extraction method, time, liquor ratio, and pH. Liquor ratio (LR), as defined in PTRI’s Handbook on Pretreatment and Dyeing of Indigenous Plant Materials for World Class Products, is the proportion of the weight of material in kilogram to the volume of water in liter.
From a production point of view, synthetic dyes are capable of producing a larger range of colors and are easier to use, and for that reason, most dyers, dye houses and retailers prefer them. Synthetic colors are better capable in satisfying and creating fashion trends that favor bright colors. Compared to synthetic dyes, natural dyes cost more. It also takes more time to grow and produce them.