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A large issue with clothes in the world today is that they use fibres that have a substancial environmental footprint. Natural fibres such as cotton need huge amounts of farmland and water to create your clothes, while synthetics such as polyester are petroleum-based.
Add to this a growing population and a shrinking amount of available farmland in the world, and you have a problem bigger than your favourite baggy jumper.
According to fibre entrepreneur Enrica Arena, existing textiles such as cotton, rayon, polyester and wool will not be able to satisfy the increasing demand in quantities and quality going into the future. The solution, she believes, lies in repurposing the byproducts of food production that would otherwise head to landfill.
Read more: A to Z guide of sustainable fibres
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“We have to solve the problems of food and clothing for a world that is expanding”- Textile chemical engineer Yiqi Yang
In response to this, designers around the world have been looking to our compost bins for inspiration. Some current ideas they're working on are reusing corn husks and chicken feathers, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Ananas Anam is a Phillipines-based company turning pineapple leaf fibres into an environmentally friendly leather alternative. The textile, Piñatex, also provides new additional income for farmers, boosting the economies of developing communities and empowering individuals.
The fibres are the byproduct of the pineapple harvest, meaning that no additional land, water, fertilizers or pesticides are required to produce the material. It's also strong, versatile, breathable, soft, light, flexible, and can be easily printed on, stitched and cut.
A design team in Italy have been working on turning the 700,000 tons of annual waste created by Sicily's orange juice industry into a soft and silky yarn. "We want to transform citrus waste into a sustainable and vitamin-enriched textile that would represent a brand new opportunity for Italian tradition in high quality textiles and fashion," the project website says.
German team Qmilch is looking instead to the "white gold" that is casein, a by-product of commercial milk production that is not allowed to be sold as food in Germany due to health regulations.
According to their website, "for the production of 1 kg of fibre we need only 5 minutes and max. 2 liters of water. This implies a particular level of cost efficiency and ensures a minimum of CO2 emissions."
The added benefit of textiles such as these is that they are biodegradable, meaning that your orange-silk pants will become worm food when they reach the end of their natural life cycle.
Hooray for sustainable textiles! We're excited to see the development of these projects and hopefully we'll all be walking around in food waste clothes in the future!
Banner image: Hokka Fabrica
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