Nike is linking arms with DyeCoo Textile Systems, the Netherlands-based company that built the first commercial waterless textile-dyeing machine, an announcement notes on Tuesday. The agua-free technology imbues a pressurized form of carbon dioxide with liquid-like properties, allowing it to penetrate textile fibers and disperse preloaded dyes without extra chemical agents. Once the dyeing cycle is complete, the CO2 is gasified to recover the excess dye before cycling back into the dyeing vessel for reuse—no muss, no fuss, and with far less energy than conventional methods.

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Conventional textile dyeing is an enormously thirsty, not to mention polluting, industry. On average, 100 to 150 liters of water is required to process a kilogram of fiber. An estimated 39 million tons of polyester will be dyed annually by 2015, according to industry analysts.

On average, 100 to 150 liters of water is required to process a kilogram of fiber.

The sportswear giant, which accepted a Greenpeace challenge to “detox” all hazardous chemicals from its supply chain by 2015, expects DyeCoo’s supercritical fluid carbon dioxide system (or “SCF” for short) to have the greatest impact in Asia, where much of the world’s textile dyeing occurs. The removal of water from the dyeing process also eliminates the volume of effluent discharge, which is responsible for dumping heavy metals and hormone-disrupting substances in major waterways and drinking supplies.

“Waterless dyeing is a significant step in our journey to serve both the athlete and the planet, and this partnership reinforces Nike’s long-term strategy and deep commitment to innovation and sustainability,” says Eric Sprunk, Nike’s vice president of merchandising and product. “We believe this technology has the potential to revolutionize textile manufacturing, and we want to collaborate with progressive dye houses, textile manufacturers, and consumer apparel brands to scale this technology and push it throughout the industry.”

Nike, which is working to scale the technology for larger production volumes, expects to roll out its first DyeCoo products at events later this year.

+ Press Release

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