Forbes // 5 Innovative Fashion Materials From Food By-Products



The fashion industry has been using the same limited range of fabrics for centuries.

Cotton, silk, leather and wool are undeniably great materials for making clothes but the surge in clothing production in recent decades has put enormous strain on these limited resources. The number of garments produced each year has doubled since 2000 according to McKinsey calling the sustainability of fabric production into question.

The production of cotton, in particular, has been linked to soil erosion, soil degradation and water contamination as a result of pesticides and the 20,000 liters of water it requires to produce just one kilogram of cotton, enough to make a single t-shirt.

Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and acrylic, were hailed as a revolution for cheaper, easier to clean clothing in the early 20th century but we now understand the negative impact they have. Polyester is known to produce carcinogens such as terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol in its production and hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers enter our water supply with every wash of it.

Thankfully, a new revolution in material innovation is underway.

The Future Fabrics Expo, the largest trade show focused on sustainable materials, opens in London tomorrow. Now in its eighth season, Future Fabrics Expo has moved to a bigger venue to meet demand. Over 100 mills will be exhibiting their products which cut a new cloth for a more sustainable fashion system.

Nina Marenzi, founder and director of The Sustainable Angle who organize the Future Fabrics Expo, told Forbes, “The overreliance on conventional cotton and virgin polyester, both reliant on finite resources and polluting in its production, needs to change. Sourcing materials from a wider variety of fibers, including innovations appearing now made from food waste, algae, regenerate cellulose, recycled sources is the way forward.”

Agroloop BioFibre

Winner of the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award, Circular Systems creates material from crop residue caused by the farming of hemp, flax, pineapples, bananas and sugar cane. They claim that the leftovers from these five crops alone could produce 250 million tons of fiber, more than two and a half times the current demand.

Without turning this waste into a new product, they are left to rot, producing alarming amounts of methane, or set on fire creating further air pollution.

Circular Systems is making a range of new materials from them instead including packaging, organic fertilizer, biofuel and their textile-grade Agroloop BioFibre.

Read more here.