The Future is Purple.

 
 
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Textile Industry is Problematic

Vetements' designer Maja Weiss made art out of 17 tons of secondhand clothing (2016) Credit: Willy Vanderperre

 
 

With a current value of 439 billion USD, the textile industry is one of the largest industries in the world, and it produces tons of pollutant every day. Although there is some general awareness on the issue of dealing with textile waste from fast fashion, less attention has been given to the harm that colouring of the fabrics brings on the environment. Textile factories create wastewater streams with ink rests in it. When not treated in a chemical waste plant, these dyes will end up in the environment and have negative impacts on the plants and animals in our ecosystem. 

 
 
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Our group investigated a specific ink mix composition provided by our client, and there are 12 potential azo dyes found in the ink mix. The chemical structure of each colour was researched and we designed experiments for the dye decolourisation based on each one's characters.

Azo dyes commonly have functional groups that made by two nitrogen atoms connected by a double bond. Accurately, these functional groups are called azo bonds and cleaving the azo bond means removing of colours from the azo dyes. Our ink degradation experiment will start with decolouring those dyes.  

In nature, a stunning variety of bacteria, microalgae, fungi and other tiny folks can be found. These microbes are invisible to the naked eye, but they are always present amongst us. Microbes are our little helpers when treating the textile waste streams, and they can directly decolourise and degrade many azo dyes under specified conditions.


Biotechnology is going to touch every part of our lived experience. It is living, it is digital, it is designed, and it can be crafted. This is a material future that we must be bold enough to shape.
— Natsai Audrey Chieza
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Behind the twelve-dyes project, there is a group of young biologists, molecular scientists and environmental engineers. They investigated a Dutch textile printing company and researched on several biological methods for the breakdown of the dyes used in this company. As ink pollution is such a large-scale issue, investigating alternative, affordable uses for the waste ink from the fashion industry or being able to detoxify these compounds is a topic which deserves much more attention than currently is given. We aim for a clean future and hope that, within a few years, we can all enjoy fashion with less harm to the environment.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Thanks

Francesco Melita

Ben van den Broek

Aliki van der Kruijs

(in no particular order)