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Brief Published: 21 Feb 2022

Paper Range Uses Plant-Based Dyes Derived from Waste

Wainwright Colours from Nature by James Cropper

UK paper manufacturer James Cropper is introducing a coloured paper collection dyed with plant extracts derived from food waste. The Wainwright Colours from Nature range signals a breakthrough in achieving more natural colour options while reinforcing the value of waste streams.

James Cropper claims this is the first plant-based dye application to paper in modern papermaking. With plant-based dyes more commonly used in textile production, their usage within solid-dyed papers has been hindered because they can be challenging to reliably bind to cellulose and are only available in a small variety of colours.

The first two botanical shades, Limestone and Herdwick Brown, are made using dyestuff harvested from rosemary residue, a by-product of food production. Non-edible waste from the rosemary plant is extracted and upcycled into the dye, which is then added to 100% FSC-certified recycled fibres.

Environmental credentials and technical performance are both successes within the range primarily designed for the packaging and publishing sectors. The paper innovation offers a bleed-free, rub-resistant dye that has lightfastness comparable with that achieved using industry-standard synthetic dyes.

The paper is inherently biodegradable and would naturally decompose in the environment. However, recycling is recommended to extend the lifespan of the valuable paper fibre.

According to R&D programme lead Joanne Storey, the company is “investigating botanical dyes extracted from a wide variety of origins, including plants, shells and fungi, and expects the range to expand significantly”.

The search for resource-efficient and eco-friendly alternatives for common synthetic pigments is a major area of interest for scientists and designers alike, as highlighted in The Biodesign Landscape and our A/W 22/23 Direction Regenerate. Expect the market for high-performance natural dyes and bacterial colour to boom as technology advances.

For more paper-based innovations, see Material Direction: Revaluing Paper, while Designing Out Waste offers solutions for a waste-free future.