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Creating Sustainable Clothes from Food Waste


It is not very often that we think of food waste and clothes at the same time. However, recent innovations in the textile industry have led to the discovery that instead of composting our waste food, it can be used to create sustainable fibres for garments.

New advances by the Agraloop bio-refinery, a waste-to-fibre platform launched by Circular Systems S.P.C., have shown that using food-crop waste to create clothing fibres can be a low-cost, sustainable alternative to conventional materials.

On their website, Circular Systems states that they “are a clean-tech new materials company, focused on the development of innovative circular and regenerative technologies”.

They also say that they “offer break-through solutions for the most efficient management of textile and agricultural waste streams”.

“This is achieved through the most elegantly simple and efficient approaches to deconstruction, coupled with the most advanced new-materials strategies”.

In other words, through Agraloop, Circular Systems has discovered that reusing waste from food-crops can be an abundant resource for fibres; fibres which can be used to manufacture garments.

(Image right: Salvatore Ferragamo has incorporated Orange Fibre Fabric into his collections.)

According to research, using the waste from just five crops; pineapple leaves, banana stalks, flax stalks, hemp stalks and cane bagasse, can yield enough bio-fibre to satisfy the global fibre demand more than twice over. These five crops alone offer more than two-hundred and fifty million tonnes of fibre per year.

Garments made from these fibres, since being made from natural bio-fibres that would otherwise go to compost, will biodegrade very easily. This is not only good for the environment but it can combat the current issues associated with the prevalence of synthetic materials in the fashion industry; something which FashionCapital looked at recently in an article about synthetic fur.

Greenpeace estimates that around 60 percent of today’s clothing contains polyester, a material derived from coal and petroleum, with the fibres being the result of a chemical reaction between acid and alcohol. Not only is this bad for the environment and oceans, but it means that these garments will not biodegrade anywhere near the speed of bio-fibres made from crop waste.

Biodegradable materials are already catching on, with American-based fitness company, Aqua Vida, offering leggings and shorts made with Amni Soul Eco fabric which is 100 percent recyclable and which will decompose in under three years at landfill.

(Image left: Fashioned From Nature at the V&A explores new fabric fibres being developed and used in the fashion industry. The exhibition runs until Sunday, 27 January 2019.)

These clothes, created using the world’s first biodegradable polyamide 6.6 yarn, are a crucial technological breakthrough for the fashion industry.

Paired with the breakthroughs being made by Circular Systems and their Agraloop bio-refinery, there are now a handful of fully-biodegradable and sustainable fabrics and fibres in the industry at a time when the dangers of synthetics are becoming known and more widely accepted.

It is widely accepted that to survive and thrive, the fashion industry needs to be sustainable; and when the mood is very much shifting towards sustainability and innovation, reusing food waste to produce fibres for garments could be just what is needed.

By Callum Cliffe

(Intro image: Products created with VegeaTextile comprising of the skins, the seeds and the stalks of grapes used in the wine making process. Currently on display at Fashioned From Nature.)

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