Tackling India’s Textile Pollution: Natural Dyes as Sustainable Solutions

Tackling India’s Textile Pollution: Natural Dyes as Sustainable Solutions

Pollution Problem in the Textile Industry

The textile industry in India is a significant contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing employment to 45 million people. However, this water-intensive sector is also a major polluter, responsible for one-fifth of the world’s industrial water pollution. One of the primary culprits behind this pollution is the usage of synthetic dyes, which leads to the production of vast amounts of dye wastewater. When released untreated, this wastewater can have long-term adverse effects on soil and water bodies, posing risks to both human and ecological health.


In an effort to address this pollution problem, the Charaka Handloom Cooperative in rural Karnataka took a pioneering step in 2012 by switching from synthetic dyes to natural alternatives. Natural dyes, derived from sources such as roots, berries, and plants, offer a sustainable and eco-friendly solution to the textile industry’s pollution woes.


Terence Peter, CEO of Charaka Handloom Cooperative, elaborates on their approach, saying, “Well, we actually use six ingredients for natural dyes. The major one is adike chogaru, which is areca nut, betel nut syrup. This is a natural syrup and is grown in the surrounding areas. This is the one used in maximum. Next, we use pomegranate skin, which we get from the local market. After drying it, we extract colors by boiling it. Pomegranate skin provides us with two to three different colors. However, the most commonly used natural dye source is, once again, the areca nut syrup.”


Areca nut syrup, locally known as adike chogaru, is a by-product created during the processing of areca nuts for sale in the market. In the past, this syrup was discarded as waste. However, after recognizing its potential as a natural dye, Charaka Handloom Cooperative has transformed the situation. Farmers now sell this by-product to earn additional income, promoting sustainability and reducing waste.


Jagada Rajappa, a Natural Dye Consultant at Charaka, explains why areca nut syrup is an excellent choice for natural dyeing: “The property of the areca nut solution contains a certain kind of tannin in it. It is good enough to fix a color onto the fiber or yarn. About two decades ago, this by-product was going to waste as farmers didn’t know how to utilize it. However, with experimentation, we discovered that the color obtained is as good as that from Acacia arabica. We decided to use it as a local dye material, benefiting farmers, traders, and generating employment in the process.”


While natural dyeing brings numerous environmental advantages, it also comes with its challenges, such as a relatively high water requirement and limitations in the color spectrum it can produce. Additionally, the choice of fabrics it can be applied to may be limited, and scalability can be an issue. However, Rajappa remains optimistic, suggesting that these challenges can be overcome through technological advancements.


He explains, “With the innovation of newer equipment, we are using enzymes, wetting agents, and the streaming method. With this steaming method, only one-fourth of the water is needed, reducing the water consumption considerably.”


The transition from synthetic dyes to natural alternatives represents a positive step towards reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry. As technological advancements continue to enhance the natural dyeing process, the prospect of sustainable, eco-friendly textiles becomes increasingly attainable. By harnessing the potential of locally available materials like areca nut syrup, the industry can not only minimize pollution but also contribute to the well-being of both the environment and local communities.


In conclusion, the adoption of natural dyes as a more sustainable alternative in the textile industry holds promise for a greener, cleaner future.




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