The CurCol project, in which partners from Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands worked together, conducted research to the potential of Curcumin as a natural dye. Curcumin is already used in food and pharmaceutical products and is a sustainable alternative to dyes from non-renewable sources. The project has successfully brought innovative steps for both the agricultural and industrial sectors and contributes towards the proposed sustainability goals.

Publication date
24 March 2023

Recent statistics show that Europe produces 87 million tonnes of packaging waste annually and that (industrial) composting is a widely used method for biobased packaging materials such as PLA. But synthetic dyes released during composting contain toxic elements that accumulate in the environment and end up in wastewater when recycling paper. CurCol has researched a solution to this problem with the use of natural colours.

By researching the cultivation of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.), CurCol has created new opportunities for greenhouse SMEs with a new high-quality crop. This has led to useful tools for growers and other interested parties to get started growing turmeric themselves, both in

aeroponics/hydroponics and soil-bound cultivation. Another area CurCol focused on was the packaging sector. By developing biobased, materials and replacing toxic or harmful, synthetic dyes and additives with environmentally friendly alternatives, CurCol has increased awareness in the industry and opened up new markets.

These innovative developments contribute to the transition to the bioeconomy, which is one of the top priority across Europe, including all NWE regions. CurCol reduces dependence on fossil fuels and supports the transition to new sustainable material production, which will help to greatly reduce the CO2 footprint and waste production of the industry.

Although further development and follow-up research are needed before these innovations can be commercially implemented, CurCol’s results offer interesting and positive perspectives for the future of sustainable production. In addition, the project has provided new information for education, research opportunities and contacts with industry.

The CurCol project is an important step towards sustainable packaging and materials. The production of turmeric-based dyes with improved quality and suitability for use in plastic packaging and inks is possible. It is a natural alternative to synthetic dyes. The project is an inspiration for other companies in the industry to also work on sustainability and hopefully encourages end users and retailers so that natural dyes can enter the market. This will contribute to a greener future for Europe and the rest of the world.

More information

For more detailed information about all the activities and results of the total project from plant to sustainable coloured packaging please take a look at our online publication with video of the project and demonstration kit.

We would like to get in touch with you if you are interested in exchanging further information or conducting research. Because although a number of steps have been taken in the valorisation of biobased dyes, we are certainly not finished and all help is welcome!


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