Responsible Dyeing Waste
Many people make the choice of naturally dyed yarn for their projects because there is a perception that all things natural are better and good for the environment.
Unfortunately this is not the case, materials grown specifically for dyeing can divert land and water resources away from food production in vulnerable parts of the world. Just the same as our desire for reusable shopping bags is not a straightforward zero impact swap.
So there are two things that I strive for in my use of natural materials for dyeing my yarn collections.
1) All my dye materials are sourced from waste. A food or plant material that is being disposed of by the owner. This can be a Cafe ingredient that has been used to make delicious food, or a problem plant that is being removed from a local Loch Ness Woodland.
This means I work with a broad range of non-traditional dye sources and I do not import any materials for my natural dyeing. If I use a traditional dye plant it is one that I have grown myself so there are zero transportation miles.
Working with waste from other businesses allows small makers like myself to be part of Circular Cycles, without owning every aspect of the process. The theory of a Circular Cycle is to set up a process which not only ends in zero waste, but actually ends in a way that is beneficial to the environment. So there is an overall positive effect that builds over time.
The examples given of Circular Cycles, tend to focus on large scale manufacturing operations such as Cars or Steel, there are some great ideas but it's not realistic for most small businesses to own or rebuild vast factories.
So applying the Circular approach to small business often means forming partnerships across sectors and working together. There are great examples of this taking place across Scotland.
By joining up with my local Cafe and Woodland owners we create a Circular Cycle that we would not be able to achieve alone.
2) Working with waste materials for dyeing means that my place in the Circular Cycle is towards the end of the process.
Each business takes responsibility for passing on to the next stage in a way that is of benefit to the next. We also think, plan and discuss the whole Cycle so that new materials and ideas are incorporated in a thoughtful way, the whole life and disposal is taken into consideration.
This is a key element of the materials that I gather, particularly from the Cafe. These waste materials, although they are 'natural' and organic struggle to biodegrade in the cool Scottish climate.
Not all food waste is the same when it comes to biodegrading and composting!
However the heat and processing of creating dye means that materials I use are then sufficiently mushed up to compost on my site.
The pictures in the post show the construction of my large composting bins which receive all the organic material waste from my natural dye process.
Next time you make a choice to purchase a 'natural' product consider two things to help promote Circular thoughts and actions in your life.
1) Where did this item come from? How did it get here?
2) What happens to this item when I am finished with it? Can it be reused? Does it compost, or does it require special high temperature biodegrading?