Circular Economy: Sustainable colors with biotechnology and bacteria

Sustainability has arrived in the textile industry, but the definition of “sustainable textiles” is still open to debate. What is the problem that must be addressed urgently? Textile industry is a vast world and is one of the most polluting sectors globally. One of its most important for its success and pollutant facets is the finishing process of dyeing. In the pursuit of the perfect color, massive amounts of energy and money are spent. Dyes’ commercial availability is enormous and the extent usage of chemicals and water waste by the textile industry is an emergent ecological concern.

The solution to this problem could be to substitute chemical dyes with dyeing with bacteria by taking advantage of both the circular economy and biotechnology. Biotechnology has endless possibilities in the textile world and the opportunity lies in the business side with a circular business model. Synthetic biology is a new rapidly developing field, which makes engineering biological systems significantly faster and cheaper. Fabricating organic colors made from naturally occurring bacteria is the most sustainable and wholesome alternative to conventional synthetic colors. Bacteria can be stored as stems in laboratories and then anytime multiplied. It is also well-suited for the circular economy as organic waste fractions can be utilized as raw materials, and used again.

But who should be the consumer to focus on? By segmenting the consumers, a ‘young circular consumer’ could be the right consumer to target. 66 percent of global Millennials are willing to spend more on brands that are sustainable and they appreciate for instance the true value of a pair of shoes including all the work that lies behind.

In order to bring this idea into life, alignment of a company’s strategies with social activism, good collaboration with suppliers, and cooperation with other companies are significant. Creating partnerships with start-ups that are specialized on growing bacteria and extracting colorants can help bigger companies, which are generally more risk-averse, to be much more in tune with the needs of their target consumer and quick to act on those needs. Further, digital is a key enabler nowadays. Each company is important to use its digital channels to connect suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers together along the life-cycle of a product.

This idea can bring sustainability in a company to the next level. It can be effective since it enables the production of specific dyes designed to meet the industry’s demands and consumer’s expectations, while being simultaneously cost effective. Of course there are many elements that need to be considered but by taking the proper actions the company can manage to successfully tackle environmental priorities, obtain a stronger sustainable image among its customer base, save costs and separate itself from its competitors through this innovation.

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