Food waste and fashion are two of the most wasteful industries in the world.
Roughly one third of the food we produce in the world is lost or wasted, from snobby supermarkets to wasteful households. This also doesn’t take into account the parts of the plant or animal we don’t use, such as banana skins and stems.
Fashion is definitely not much better, with 85 percent of our clothing in Australia ending up in landfill, of which a high percentage are made from synthetic plastic fibres. This has become a huge issue, with plastic microfibres ending up in the ocean and food supplies, with unknown effects. The materials and processes used in fashion production are also generally toxic and resource draining, from water to toxic pesticides.
The statistics on the environmental damage of food and fashion waste is truly disgusting and need to be addressed. With a recent focus on biomaterials in the fashion industry, it’s no wonder that innovative people are turning to food waste for solutions. The below materials from food waste could be the next mainstream alternative to cotton or polyester.
Bananas In Pyjamas
Banana-fibre is surprisingly one of the oldest known natural clothing materials, which went out of fashion once cotton and synthetic materials dominated the market. It originated from a culture in Japan and is called bashôfu in Japanese. With natural fibres making a come-back and material development a hot topic in fashion, banana-fibre seems to be trending.
The fibres are scraped from the banana plant stem bark and then processed multiple ways to make different types of materials, most commonly used as an alternative to silk. It’s apparently quite an intensive process to produce currently, however with more initiatives and funding this could be reduced. Banana-fibre is one of the world’s strongest natural materials, soft, biodegradable, breathable and incredibly durable. It is literally the perfect material for pyjamas.
Banana fibre can be used to make a number of different textiles with different weights and thicknesses, based on what part of the banana stem the fibre was extracted from. The thicker, sturdier fibres are taken from the banana trees outer sheaths, whereas the inner sheaths result in softer fibres.” – Fashion United, 2017
Banana-fibre is not only a useful and sustainable material, it’s a commonly wasted in the production of the fruit. Banana farmers waste over one billion tonnes of banana stem each year, which ends up in landfill producing more carbon to add to global warming. Using this material to produce fashion could be a positive way to produce more jobs and income for banana farmers and communities, whilst encouraging the use of eco-friendly materials.
Ancient Flax Linen
Flax linen has well and truly made it into mainstream fashion and products in Australia, and worldwide. It’s a fabric even dating back to ancient Egypt (cheers to the pharaohs). Linen is made from fibres of the flax plant stem, which is then spun to produce the breathable summer wear we all know and love. It is cultivated in particular countries that have cool and humid climates such as Spain, and like banana-fibre, can be labor-intensive as it is cultivated by hand.
Bed Threads is a perfect example of a popular linen brand, which was recently featured last month in a Vogue article. The 100 percent flax linen bedding company has taken the sleep world by storm. Linen bedding is eco-friendly, breathable, anti-bacterial, temperature-regulating and comfortable. It also softens with each wash – get me one of these bed sets now! It’s also a perfect alternative to a shockingly wasteful problem, did you know over 70 percent of our bedsheets mainly made from water-intensive cotton end up in landfill? The possibilities for flax linen are endless and I don’t think the ancient material will be going away anytime soon.
If you like Pina Colada
Leather as a material is an environmental and ethical dilemma, with faux alternatives using synthetic materials made from petroleum which aren’t much better (for the environment anyway). Leather is a serious environmental hazard with PETA calling it, ‘a serious ecological problem in which runoff waste…suffocates animals…and is the leading cause of hypoxic zones, also known as “dead zones”‘. The toxic chemicals that animal leather is treated with is also toxic to humans, causing many workers to become ill and even linked to early death. Let’s also not forget that leather accounts for around 50% of the total byproduct value of cattle (according to Born Free USA).
Basically, leather is a huge issue all ’round and until pineapple leaves came along there wasn’t a viable alternative. Leather made from pineapple leaves are actually carbon positive since they are otherwise wasted in pineapple harvesting. Piñatex is the circular economy focused company that produces the trademarked pineapple leather and is providing designers with the material worldwide. They are also promoting positive social impact and cultural development amongst the pineapple farming communities. The material also ‘ages’ and molds to the shape of the wearer, like real animal leather.
My jaw dropped when I saw this silver Pinatex Neo-classic biker jacket, it’s f*cking awesome (not all Pinatex clothing is that expensive FYI).
I know the world is starting to turn away from the idea that coconut oil might not be the wonder health product we all thought it was, but it could be a great clothing material. The material is called Cocona Fabric and has been widely suggested as a potential fabric for active wear, which is classically made from synthetic fibres. The activated carbon from used coconut shells can be used in synthetic fabric such as recycled polyester to give it remarkably better properties. This includes UV protection, faster drying, lighter, softer and less smelly.
The company 37.5 Technology has commercialised this concept using coconut shells, patenting the dynamic thermoregulation technology with volcanic ash. The technology can literally regulate your temperature, reduce moisture from your clothes and improve performance. Adidas, Salomon and the U.S. Army are all clients, so they must be on to something.
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- The Sustainable Fashion Blueprint Report 2018: Industry Overview and Business Opportunities
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