Waste Not Want Not: The Rise of Waste Developed Textiles
The textiles industry turns to food and existing fabric waste to create truly sustainable and environmentally friendly fabrics.
The idea of throwing away food waste is a relatively new concept that has hugely impacted the environment. According to recyclenow.com, around 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year, most of which could have been eaten or composted.
This practice would have been unheard of by our ancient ancestors, where every bone, skin, husk or leaf would be utilised in some way. It is this very idea of repurposing waste that has come to the fore within the textiles sector in recent years with climate change and sustainability pressures escalating the development of raw material options. Recent innovations which transform raw materials into fibers include harvesting pineapple leaves, banana plants, and grape waste from wine production. For example, S. Café® has pioneered a new technology which applies coffee grounds in yarn production. With a low-temperature and energy saving process, the technology combines coffee grounds onto the yarn surface to produce fabrics for performance wear, clothing and bedding. More and more manufacturers are expanding beyond their remit to actively seek out unused resources.
Recently, sustainable fiber producer Lenzing partnered with Italian company Orange Fiber to produce a new cellulosic fiber from citrus fruit by-products. With a shared sustainability vision for the textile and fashion industry, Lenzing and Orange Fiber have produced the first TENCEL™ branded lyocell fiber made of orange and wood pulp. The collaboration marks the launch of the TENCEL™ Limited Edition initiative, which seeks to discover unconventional raw materials and repurpose it into fibers. Companies of all sizes can partner with Lenzing to produce a special edition fiber series under this initiative. The fibers are currently being transformed into a new collection of fabrics, which will be presented to the market in October 2021.
Reuse and Repurpose…
As part of its aim to address the enormous waste challenges within the textiles industry, Lenzing has also partnered with Södra, a world-class producer of pulp. Together, the two companies have given textile recycling a huge boost by developing technologies which provide broader, industrial-scale use of post-consumer cellulosic waste. The jointly developed pulp OnceMore® will subsequently be used also as a raw material for the production of Lenzing’s TENCEL™ x REFIBRA™ branded specialty fibers.
The fundamental idea of waste being reused and repurposed is an evolving business model across the fashion and textiles sector. Companies such as Evrnu work exclusively with discarded textiles and their core ethos is to continue the fashion cycle by seeing waste as a resource. Fashion brands such as Fanfare, and Patagonia are combining sustainable virgin fabrics with materials already in circulation.
This increasingly eco-conscious approach to waste is due to be highlighted in a new exhibition at London’s Design Museum this autumn. ‘Waste Age: What Can Design Do?’ invites visitors to explore how designers are redefining fashion, construction, food, electronics and packaging through over 300 objects, by designing out waste and creating a more circular economy. In the fashion sector, the exhibition will showcase designs made from biodegradable, plant-based plastics to bales of jeans being recycled into Ciculose – a material that can be used to create new clothing designs.
Collectively, we must all face the problem of waste and now, emerging innovative technologies are enabling us to reprocess what we would normally throw away. It’s time to dispel the conception that consumer items have an end of life, but rather that they have extended life cycles which can sustain consumer needs without placing unnecessary pressure on the planet.