Natural Dyes for the Textile Industry

New cooperations between agriculture und industry are necessary to ensure the utilization of renewable materials. The project´s focus is upon natural dyes and their application in textile industry. The goal of the project is to create a contact institution which connects various suppliers of diverse plant materials, takes on the processing, and standardising of the natural dyes, and makes a product that can be used by the industry.

Short Description




The use of vegetable dyeing materials in textile colouring is an old and well-known way of utilising regenerating raw materials which was taken up in this project and adapted according to the technical, economic, and ecological requirements of the 21st Century. Focus was to create all conditions required for the industrial use of plant dyes. Based on requirements of the textile dyeing industry, precise solutions were developed for making plant dyes applicable for industrial textile dyeing operations.

Food and wood processing enterprises as raw material suppliers were linked with industrial textile dyeing enterprises on the demand side. Considering the respective requirements and using existing infrastructure should allow for keeping resource input and processing costs low.

Cross-linking was effected by introducing production-use-chains describing the track of dyeing stuff from raw material to the dyed textile. The production and optimisation of sustainable production-use-chains is a challenge in multi-criterial decision making: The goal of achieving sustainable development is split-up into sub-goals of occasionally contradicting fulfilment. Thus, approaching one goal can sometimes create a deviation from another goal. The rather complex problem context was addressed in this project by defining a superordinate goal and by means of discussion and dialogue. A continual decision making process regarding the establishment and optimisation of the production-use-chains accompanied the entire project in form of an elimination procedure (see diagram) covering three subsequent categories:

  • Technical feasibility
  • Operational feasibility
  • Economical feasibility

The following results are available: colour chart for plant dyes, dyed items (wool spindle, knitted pieces, pantyhose), definition of a standardised dye product (mixable bags of dry shredded plant material), cost estimates for dyeing stuff supply, development of a model-type supply and processing structure. The experiences gained in the project were presented in a manual assisting the initiation of new co-operations between supply and demand sides.

The most important recommendations for research and promotion policies are the following:

  • Promoting development projects along the entire production-use-chain;
  • Specifically promoting efforts to optimise stabilisation and standardisation procedures;
  • Supporting innovation projects in small and medium-sized enterprises by subsidising personnel expenditure (e.g., Innovation Assistant in Lower Austria);
  • Use of renewable sources of energy for processing regenerating raw materials (e.g., drying process assisted by solar energy; covering remaining energy requirements by fermentation gas: using cogeneration heat during the summer)

Project Partners

Project manager:
Mag. Susanne Geissler
Österreichisches Ökologie Institut

Univ. Prof. Dr. Thomas Bechtold
Institut für Textilchemie und Textilphysik der Leopold-Franzens Universität Innsbruck

DI Otto Schütz, DI Anna Hartl
ÖVAF, Österreichische Vereinigung für agrarwissenschaftliche Forschung

Wolfgang Haertl
Schöller Bregenz GmbH & CoKG

Ingo Mangold
Wolford AG


Mag. Susanne Geissler
Österreichisches Ökologie Institut
Seidengasse 13
A 1070 Wien
Tel.: +43 1 523 61 05-16
Fax: +43 1 523 58 43