Here’s an inconvenient truth: Batik in its current form is a really dirty industry.
The Nation's pride is found to produce more CO2 emissions than any other SMEs in Indonesia, having a high consumption of fossil fuel (kerosene) and create toxic waste from its dyes (EKONID).
But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, the unique colors of batik originated from nature. In each part of Java, artisans created colors that were unique to their region – based on locally available plants and well-guarded, secret recipes.
Clothes to dye for
Synthetic dyes arrived in Indonesia around the 1890s. Made of (petro-)chemicals, not only do they pose health hazards to the people working with them - particularly without using protective equipment - but many of the chemicals also end up in freshwater systems.
As more and more Batik become industrialized, the now highly toxic waste water is often released without treatment. These chemicals keep reacting and changing in the community’s river.
“<20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. In fact, 72 toxic chemicals in our water come solely from textile dyeing - of which 30 can never be removed. “
- World Bank
Effect of Synthetic Dye (graph/infographic)
- Artisan | Skin irritation, respiratory problems, cancers
- Environment | Loss of aquatic ecosystem
- You | Skin irritation, exposure to carcinogenic compounds