Eat your veggies and wear them too!
This week we want to talk about the 10 fibres made from fruit and vegetables.
As the fashion industry is a well-known polluter, many have started to develop alternative fibres that can reduce the industry’s environmental impact. You might have heard that natural fibres are more sustainable than widely used synthetic fibres which are ultimately plastic, although it’s not that simple.
The most common natural fibre is cotton which isn’t as harmless as it seems. High water consumption, massive land use and pesticides required to grow it, makes it not the most sustainable fabric, especially at the rate at which it’s used nowadays.
Simultaneously the food industry also has huge impacts on the environment (agriculture is one of the top global emission emitters) and much of what is produced is wasted along the food chain and at households. To find a solution to these industries’ footprint many companies have been developing innovative fibres made from edible items and their byproducts.
To start the new year with a futuristic outlook, we’ve rounded up 10 foods that are being turned into all kinds of fashion items. You’ll be mesmerized by the power of science to turn everyday foods into stylish garments.
Take your wardrobe to the next level with these innovative textiles!
1. Orange fibre
Developed in Sicily, the Italian region known for its sweet oranges, this fibre is made from citrus juice leftovers. For every citrus fruit squeezed into juice, 40 to 60% ends up as waste, adding up to 1 million tonnes of citrus byproducts only in Italy. From these by-products, Orange Fiber extracts cellulose and creates a soft, high-quality fibre. It’s then infused with citrus fruit essential oil, creating a vitaminic fabric that nourishes the skin.
2. Pineapple leather
To be precise this fibre is made from the wasted leaves of the pineapple plant; which is a by-product of the pineapple harvest. It’s called Piñatex and it’s already been adopted by major fashion brands. Once the pineapple harvest is over, fibres are extracted from the residue plant leaves, then washed and left to dry and subsequently treated to remove any impurities. The result is a fluff-like fibre that gets mixed with a corn-based polylactic acid and undergoes a mechanical process to create Piñafelt, which forms the base of all Piñatex collections. The material is then coloured and finished with a resin topcoat to give it additional strength, durability and water resistance. It provides additional income to farmers, reduces waste and can be recycled into fertilizer..
3. Apple skin leather
We’re back in Italy, in the Tyrol region, renowned for the production of apples which again produces a significant amount of waste. Frumat developed a new raw material to answer both the local apple-waste issue and the increasing demand for ecological alternatives to leather. It’s a smooth cellulose-based fabric that’s made using the apple core and skin. It’s durable and cruelty-free, resembling a leather-like texture.
4. Wine leather
Another Italian company, Vegea uses grape marc which are the skins, stalks and seeds that are discarded during the winemaking process to make a leather-like material.
For every 10 litres of wine, 2.5 kg of “waste” is produced – from this waste, one square metre of wine leather can be made. The best part is that products made using this material can then be re-turned into wine leather. Circularity at its best!
5. Coffee yarn
We’re all aware of the popularity of coffee, but you’re probably not aware that coffee beans can actually be turned into fibre! S. Café® technology, with an energy-saving process, combines coffee grounds onto the yarn surface, changing the characteristics of the filament, and offers up to 200% faster drying time compared to cotton.
Also, the micro-pores on S. Café® coffee grounds absorb odours and reflect UV rays. The company’s philosophy is to drink it, wear it!
6. Sugar soles
Moving onto shoes, Allbirds created SweetFoam™️️ that’s created by extracting oil from sugar cane to produce a rubber-like material that’s ideal for sneaker soles. Sugarcanes are responsibly sourced from Brazil with no irrigation needed – just rainwater.
They grow quickly, removing carbon from the atmosphere in the process.
7. Potato bioplastic
Chipsboard makes bioplastics from potato waste, which they source from McCain oven chips. The material – called Parblex – is biodegradable and recyclable, and can be used for a variety of products, including buttons and glasses. It’s durable and super versatile.
8. Mushroom fibre
This is the oddest of materials, it does not require farmland, pesticides or hazardous chemicals and uses very little water. We’re talking about MycoTEX, a material made out of Mycelium – mushroom spores. They can be grown anywhere through fermentation and its manufacturing method is fully automated, without any weaving or stitching.
Products are fully customizable and waste-free as they’re made in a mould so there’s no sewing! The products do not need to be washed in the machine, but can just be wiped clean and at the end of their life, they can be home composted.
9. Coconut fabric
Cocona makes fabric out of recycled coconut shells, which are a byproduct of the food industry. This fibre is made using natural activated carbons derived from coconut shells and volcanic sands, particles are then combined with a synthetic polymer base. It’s ideal for athletic wear as it is lightweight, breathable, and wicks moisture away from the skin. It’s also quick-drying, wrinkle resistant and protects from UV radiation.
10. Banana fibre
Compost is bliss for the soil. It reduces landfill waste, replaces chemical fertilizers and helps aerate the soil, retaining moisture and providing nutrients. You can build it up over time using a mix of carbon-rich
Bananatex makes durable, waterproof and biodegradable fabric purely from banana plants. The stalks of banana trees are shredded to be turned into paper and then yarn. Abacá plants (a type of Banana) are used are sturdy and self-sufficient, requiring no pesticides or extra water. Each plant has several stalks that can be harvested once a year, and regenerate fully within one year.
Growing these plants contributed to the reforestation in areas of the former Philippine jungle eroded by soil damage due to monocultural palm plantations. The first step is cutting the leaves, then “tumbling” the stalks. The leaves are left to decompose, creating a natural fertilizer. Once the stalks are turned into fibres, no toxic chemicals are used to dye them. The fibre is incredibly strong and durable while remaining soft and lightweight.
For a hopeful outlook!
The options are endless when it comes to turning food into clothes. All over the world, a range of local materials can be turned into stylish garments and environmentally friendly fashion compared to conventional cotton or polyester. The popularity of these fibres is blooming thanks to the lower footprint and biodegradability that they offer while retaining quality and durability. By embracing circularity, these innovations can truly make a difference to the fashion and food industry in the near future.