Potential of Eco-friendly Floral Dyes in the Handmade Paper Industry

Handmade paper is created with paper pulp and vegetable fibres. Handmade paper production for the gift market has increased over the last decade, with handmade paper being used as wrapping material, for stationery articles such as writing pads, photo frames, and calendars, as well as for packaging (especially for natural and eco-friendly products). Due to the increased demand for such products, the industry is placing greater emphasis on product diversification as well as improved packaging design.

Market surveys indicate that plastic bags, which are not at all eco-friendly, are still widely used. Handmade paper using synthetically dyed paper is also a popular packaging material. Research has shown that most of the paper mill effluent is not eco-friendly due to the presence of toxic ingredients such as heavy metals arising from mordents like copper, chromium etc. This led the author to investigate the potential for the use of naturally dyed handmade paper as a viable alternative.

Natural dyes are currently being used widely in the textile industry where designers have succeeded in converting what may be considered the flaws of natural dyes the inconsistency in colour shades and the inability to reproduce a colour into design features. However, the potential of natural dyes has yet to be fully tapped by the paper industry. Further, floral dyes which fade easily and lack colour fastness could be used to great effect for colouring paper as durability through wash cycles is not a necessary criteria. Flowers, often used in paper production as an ingredient or decorative embellishment, are, as yet not used as a colouring agent.

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