”It’s a simple, scalable solution to fashion’s massive water consumption”

Swedish cleantech company We aRe SpinDye’s CEO Andreas Andrén on providing a new sustainable standard for dyeing synthetic textiles in the fashion and apparel industry in a user-friendly way.
April 19, 2021

Water is vital for all life and for all creatures. The earth’s surface is covered to 71 percent by water of which only 2.5 percent is fresh water and to a larger part is bound in glaciers and below the earth’s surface, in the shape of groundwater.

Despite this, Swedish cleantech company We aRe SpinDye’s CEO Andreas Andrén shares, man uses and consumes water as an infinite resource. Streams, lakes, and seas have been used as garbage stations for decades, without thinking about the consequences contaminated water has been discharged from industries — often without proper treatment into rivers, lakes, and seas. 

— Washing, dyeing, and finishing of textiles requires large amounts of clean freshwater, he says, ranging from 100 cubic meters to well over 300 cubic meters of water per tonne depending on the material and efficiency of the manufacturing processes. The impact on water resources is significant. It is estimated that the annual global textile production is between 60 and 70 million tonnes, which requires 9 million cubic meters of water, which is enough to fill 3.6 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

We aRe SpinDye provides a technology and platform for production and quality control that enables players in the fashion and clothing industry to significantly reduce their environmental impact.

— The company’s business concept is to establish a new, sustainable, and transparent standard for dyeing synthetic textiles in the fashion and apparel industry in a user-friendly way. ”We” symbolize collaboration, ”Re” stands for recycled and SpinDye is the technology, says Andrén.

Tell us about your technology. How does it work?

— Simply put, we are adding color in the manufacturing stage of the fiber. Prior to the dope (melted raw material) is extruded through the spinneret, a specifically tailored color masterbatch is being added to the solution. The dyed pre-oriented yarn will then come out homogeneously colored, without the need to consider shade variations within the same batch, with excellent colorfastness properties as an add-on. As the yarn is dyed in the correct color without the use of water, there is no need to put the forthcoming fabric through an intensive dyeing cycle, thus resulting in significantly less use of resources. On average we use 75% less water, 90% less chemicals, 30% less CO2, and 30% less accumulated energy, says Andrén, adding,

— Here is an example. Think about a LEGO brick — there is no logical reason why a synthetic material would be processed, manufactured, injection moulded, and then colored on the outside. Not only is it immensely difficult to make color and dyes stick onto a surface made of synthetic material but also as it would require an additional processing step. However, that is exactly what is being done in the textile industry today in the conventional process.

We aRe SpinDye’s process

Recent launches using the technology have involved Tiger of Sweden, NOAH New York, Adidas by Stella McCartney, and Arket. Last Thursday, We aRe SpinDye’s second capsule collab with H&M — named Colour Story as part of the retailer’s Innovation Stories initiative — was released.

— We were immensely happy and honored that focus was brought on our key mission, namely dyeing and coloring of textiles. Some of the recycled polyester in the collection is dyed using We aRe SpinDye and we hope that our participation will further highlight that there is a simple, scalable solution to the massive problem of water consumption and pollution from fashion production, says Andrén, adding,

— We’ve also just signed a few very promising collaboration agreements with, for example, Superdry and Gina Tricot which is very exciting. Superdry being a huge global brand with serious sustainability goals and Gina Tricot, fast-moving and ambitious.

Andreas Andrén with more numbers and insights from the fashion and textile industry 

– A large part of the global textile industry is geographically located in parts of the world that are already strained and has limited water resources, both with finite water levels in lakes and streams, but also declining groundwater levels, such as China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Turkey. As an example, water use from the textile industry in Bangladesh, which is one of the world’s largest textile producers, is estimated to be 1,500 million cubic meters annually and the main source is the country’s groundwater depots.

– The textile industry uses an average of 100–150 liters of water to dye one kilo of textile material. Every year about 28 billion kilos of textiles of fashion is dyed and in the dyeing process, 5 trillion liters of water are used. In addition to water use, approximately 6 kilos of process chemicals need to be dissolved per 100 kilograms of textile resulting in toxic waste. Depending on the material, 10–20 percent is calculated as dyes remaining in the wastewater. Among the waste are many dangerous chemicals, for example, tributyltin (TBT), pentabromodiphenyl ether (PBDE), phthalates, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and aniline — many of which are banned or strictly regulated in some countries because they are toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative, endocrine disruptors and can cause cancer.