The fashionable life cycle of biomaterials

In nature, there is no waste

“Products must sell, be desirable, affordable, or else the company cannot survive.”

The leading percentage of manufacturing companies are already locked in such a competitive chain of supply and demand that makes it difficult to realign to healthier values. While chasing a profit, environmental and human resources become undervalued at a concerning speed. That leads to many aspects of the textiles and fashion industry getting grouped under the banner of unsustainability.

Let’s begin with a simple concept: in nature, there is no waste.

Only two basic types of materials can be naturally found: those that grow and those that do not grow (finite materials).

When manufacturing, the natural order is unbalanced and unlikely to biodegradable materials, man-made products are mostly poisonous. Commonly-used man-made textiles contain many substances in the form of pesticides, chemicals, and dyes. This is why so many ecological movements and changes have been initiated by people in the industry.

In a perfect world, everyone on the planet should adapt to sustainable ways of living to minimize negative environmental impacts and maximize positive aspects. We must become well-educated, informed, and active participants in real solutions to such a challenge as it is to “break the vicious circle of products designed for limited use”.

Reuse and recycling is the one step that everybody can easily take further to break the malicious cycle. When recycling, materials transform into a new form and can serve many more purposes. Brands in the fashion industry have made a massive impact when creating products with recycled materials such as pet plastic, rubber tires, cork stoppers, soda cans, etc.

However, many promising technologies transform “the materials that grow” (mentioned above) into fabrics to be used in clothing production.

The Sustainable Cotton Project: considered to be the pillar of sustainability in the fashion industry. That is mainly because its most common benefit is reducing the use of chemicals during production, making it safer. Unlike normal cotton, which is also known as a “thirsty” crop, (it requires about 29.000 liters of water to produce enough fibre to produce one pair of jeans – Clay, 2004) this organic option does not need excessive water use.

Vegea: its name comes from the combination of VEG (Vegan) and GEA (Mother Earth). Chosen to identify next generation of alternative materials to totally oil-based and animal-derived ones. The idea behind this concept is to develop a process for the valorisation of wine waste: grape skins, stalks and seeds discarded during wine production.

Company: Vegea

Bananatex: super strong and durable, yet light and flexible, the natural beeswax coating gives it a smooth, finish and a supple hand feels. Considered to be the world’s first durable fabric made purely from Banana plants that require no chemical treatment. It is therefore 100% natural and biodegradable without industrial composting support.

Company: QWSTION International GmbH

Mylo: If you are like me, and do not like mushrooms, I believe it might be because we haven’t tried them in the form of a very cool eco-friendly jacket. Mycelium, the “root” of the mushroom and the key-substance of this biomaterial, is carbon-negative and can also be naturally dyed any color. Even more, the fabric created from it is everything we love about leather without everything we don’t: non-toxic, waterproof, and non-flammable. Mylo leather can take many shapes, it can be thin as paper or very thick, it is also proven to be an incredibly flexible and strong material.

Company: Bolt Threads

Parblex: replace conventional petrochemical-based materials with natural and organic elements, mainly food waste streams, giving them new functionality. No banned chemical substances are involved in the production, and the process is closed-loop because residual biomass is used as a natural fertilizer.

Company: Chip[s] Board

Jesmonite: an acrylic-modified gypsum composite that has a wide range of aesthetic capabilities. Jesmonite is a type of eco-resin that can be used as an environmentally friendly substitute for polyester GP resin because of its water-based and non-toxic properties. It is frequently used in creating sculptures, paintings, and even jewellery.

Piñatex: Inspired by the abundance of natural resources, Dr.Carmen Hijosa, created a new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced, provide positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle. The use of pineapple leaf fibre, an agricultural waste product, provides the opportunity to build a scalable commercial industry for developing farming communities, with minimal environmental impact.

Company: Ananas Anam

Orange Fiber: transforms industrial waste of citrus into a sustainable and biodegradable textile that, in perspective, can become an important production chain not only of Sicily but of other citrus producing territories too. It is soft to the touch and shiny appearance, suitable to be woven with any type of existing yarn. Inside are also positioned, with the aid of nanotechnologies, essential oils in the form of capsules that dissolve in contact with the skin, smoothening.

Company: Orange Fiber

ProjectFlax: an international research project explored by 20 national and international, commercial, and institutional flax researchers funded by the European Union. Flax is a natural plant based, soft, lustrous, and flexible. It is stronger than cotton fiber but less elastic, yet, these are very alike. In terms of sustainability, this material is often considered a preferred fiber with less harmful environmental impact.

Trends in the fashion industry constantly come and go, however, the circular economy is here for “the long ride”. We are referring to an industry that is best positioned to take on this challenge, and soon the world will follow. The future is green and belongs to biomaterials, our salvation.

An article by Elena Pop


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