Kenyan marathon uniform marks Nike's first use of waterless fabric dyeing

Nike Inc.

The racing singlet to be worn by Kenyan marathoner Abel Kirui is the first Nike Inc. product to showcase the waterless dyeing technology of DyeCoo Textile Systems Inc. Nike invested in the Dutch firm earlier this year. 

Kenyan marathoner Abel Kirui will run for the gold medal in London on Sunday wearing a Nike Inc.-made singlet that was dyed in his nation's colors without the use of water.

The uniform marks the first results from Nike's investment in DyeCoo Textile Systems Inc.

The Washington County sporting goods giant in February announced it had invested an undisclosed amount in the Dutch company, which has developed and built the first commercially available textile dyeing machines.

Typically, textile dyeing uses between 100 and 150 liters of water just to process a single kilogram of textile material, and the synthetic textile dyeing industry uses 2.4 trillion gallons of water per year. That's enough to fill 3.7 million competition swimming pools, Nike said.

DyeCoo, though, employs a process that uses fluid carbon dioxide to dye fabric. The process also involves using non-toxic gases that come from the waste streams of other industries. The result is a dyeing process that is not only waterless, but also produces as much as 60 percent fewer carbon emissions than conventional methods, Nike said in a news release.

At the time of its initial DyeCoo announcement, Nike said the waterless dyeing technique had only been used commercially on polyester and that its goal was to both make the process an industry standard and expand its use to include synthetic fibers.

It appears to have accomplished the second goal. The fabric used to make Kirui's singlet comes from recycled plastic bottles, which were ground into flakes, melted and spun into a thread.

The DyeCoo investment was the first made by Nike's Sustainable Business & Innovation Lab, which has been described as a venture capital-like operation focused on making investments in sustainable production technologies.

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