If you have visited the Basque country between January and April you will likely have heard the shout of txotx! This, in the local language, is the order to bring out the cider. In the north of Spain, this apple based alcoholic drink is very important part of life - there are sagardotegi (cider houses) across the region, where after the cod fish omelette as starter, and a steak main course, comes the desert of walnuts and local cheese. Up to 55,000 kilos of walnuts are eaten each season. And now one clothing brand from the Basque country is turning the shells of these nuts, from waste into something very useful – natural dyes, Ternua first had the idea in 2017 when it began researching possibilities for using natural dyes made with agricultural waste in its clothing. And now with support from the Department of the Environment and the Regional Government of Gipuzkoa and the Natural Cider Association of Gipuzkoa the dream is moving closer to reality.
Sustainablity has been at the core of Ternua since their founding in 1994 and we asked Edu Uribesalgo, the brand's Director of Innovation to tell us more; “Nowadays, dyes come from petroleum, which is by no means environmentally friendly. Ternua is a brand that's committed to the environment and we wanted to find an alternative so we could cut down on the chemicals we use in our clothing. We knew natural dye could be produced using agricultural waste. The first thing we thought of were the nut shells in the cider houses. We talked with the Natural Cider Association of Gipuzkoa and they agreed to collaborate. So, we got to work."
"We found a company in Tudela where the shells could be ground up and we got in touch with Archroma to see whether they could handle the chemical process of transforming the shells into natural dye. The final result is a selection of sustainable t-shirts and sweatshirts for men and women. In fact, they're the most sustainable clothes we've ever produced because they're made with cotton recycled from other clothes that aren't being used any more mixed with recycled PET polyester and they're dyed naturally" concluded Uribesalgo.
With up to 55,000 kilos of nuts are consumed and disposed of as organic waste, special plans had to be put in place for their collection. So, Ternua ( @ternua ) and its collaborators have created special containers for collecting nut shells that are available in several cider houses in Gipuzkoa. Every day, cider house staff puts the shells in a container provided for that purpose by the Department of the Environment and the shells are taken away to be ground up. Three hundred kilos of nuts that Ternua can use for up to 10,000 garments have been collected so far.
The initiative is a clear example of the circular economy and shows the importance of working in a network of companies, entities and public and private bodies in order to minimise the impact of an industrial activity on the environment.
As Environmental Deputy José Ignacio Asensio noted; “There are fewer and fewer resources available and industries have to change their processes and put sustainability and the struggle against climate change at the forefront of their business models. Clearly, we need to start making clothes that have a positive impact on the planet. And here at the Department of the Environment, we're going to give our support to projects that are the beginning of change.”
These sustainable clothes that are dyed naturally with nut shells collected in Basque cider houses will go in a capsule collection inside Ternua's spring summer 2019 international collection. We will let you know when they are available!
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Download: Bio-Based World Quarterly issue #10.