6 questions about Nike’s water-less fabric dyeing technology

6 questions about Nike’s water-less fabric dyeing technology

Nike on Tuesday introduced machinery that can dye fabric without using water.

The technology could dramatically alter the resource-gobbling process currently used to dye fabric. The introduction, at a contract factory in Taiwan, was the latest step in the water-less, fabric-dyeing path for the world’s largest footwear and apparel brand.

Here are six questions The Oregonian posed to Oregon-based Nike on Tuesday about the announcement and technology, answered by Delwyn Hudson, global director, corporate communications, sustainable business and innovation.

Q: Nike announced a partnership last year with DyeCoo Textile Systems B.V. Was this DyeCoo’s technology that has been used in the factory Taiwan?

A: Nike worked with DyeCoo to maximize R learnings from their first-generation machine to take the technology to the next level.

Q: Was the dyeing process shown on Tuesday (Taiwan time; it was Monday night, Pacific time) for demonstration only with commercial applications in 2014?

A: While R is our immediate focus, the machine is already being used to dye material for commercial use.

Q: What products will be dyed with this technology in 2014? What percentage of Nike fabric-dyeing is expected in the first year with this technology? And what are the projections for upcoming years?

A: We will have Nike ColorDry product in the market in early 2014. We don’t disclose product specifics until they are launched. Nike’s focus is on long-term scale across our supply chain and product lines and ColorDry is one of several manufacturing innovations. Nike Flyknit is another great example of game-changing technology.

Q: Earlier this year, GreenPeace alleged Nike, Adidas, Li-Ning of China and other brands had been too slow in implementing production changes to reduce environmental impact. Was the announcement event motivated at all by the GreenPeace criticism?

A: No. We have been communicating key milestones in our waterfree innovation journey, including in Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk’s remarks at Nike Inc.’s recent investor day. Here are links to some other announcements: Nike announces strategic partnership to scale waterless dyeing technology; Kenyan marathon champion to wear Nike uniform of innovative sustainable materials; and Nike welcomes Ikea as key partner in innovative waterless dyeing system.

Q: What Nike executives attended the event in Taiwan?

A: Mike Yonker, NIKE Inc. VP of Innovation and members of Nike’s advanced R function.

Q: How much more or how much less does this waterless dyeing process cost compared to a water-intensive process?

We’re not disclosing specifics on costs however the process offers a range of efficiencies: Zero water used to dye fabric, reduces energy usage by 60+% and reduces time to dye by around 40%. Exhaustion rate (use) of dye in ColorDry is nearly 100% compared to 80-90% for traditional dyeing and when you remove water from the dyeing process you remove the need for additional process chemicals, which helps us deliver on our commitment to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals.

— Allan Brettman