Wearable fashion garments made from liquid food waste and vegan sneakers made from coffee plants and grounds may become game changers for the fashion industry. Innovation in textile production processes is urgently needed because of the industry’s immense carbon footprint. Waste, pollution, deforestation, toxicity in the manufacturing process, and carbon-fueled supply chains combine to make fashion one of the most environmentally damaging of industries. Textile production creates greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2 bn tons a year, which is greater than that created by all international airline flights and shipping, as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states in a report entitled A New Textiles Economy. If the industry continues on its current path, it could end up consuming more than a quarter of the world’s allocated carbon budget associated with the 2°C pathway by the year 2050.
The throwaway nature of fashion bears a negative ecological as well as economic impact. Every second, throughout the world, a truckload of clothing is wasted, which amounts globally to a loss of US $ 460 billion each year. Some garments are discarded after only having been worn seven to ten times. Less than one percent of this material is ever recycled into new clothing. Green fashion shows on a red carpet are not nearly enough for designer Stella McCartney. “The climate question concerns all of us as well as our future,” says McCartney, who appealed to her colleagues at other fashion brands to join the UN Charter for Sustainable Fashion at the COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Forty fashion brands, among them Adidas, Burberry, Gap, Hugo Boss, and the H&M Group agreed to address vital issues: eliminating the use of coal in the production process; choosing sustainable materials and low-emission transportation methods; and raising consumer awareness. The goal is to reduce combined greenhouse gas emissions by 30 % by 2030.
Collaboration between innovators, fiber producers, chemical suppliers, textile mills, and brands is crucial for a successful change-over. One eco-friendly solution is being provided by Nanollose, an Australian biomaterial technology company that is producing wearable garments from a new fabric processed from coconut waste. This eco-friendly Tree-Free Rayon fiber Nullarbor is created by an innovative biomaterial technology: Microbes naturally ferment liquid waste obtained from industrial food processors and turn it into cellulose, a cotton-like raw material that is then transformed into Nullarbor fiber.
This process was developed by scientist Gary Cass, who presented a dress made from beer at the World Expo in Milan in 2014. Meanwhile, Nanollose created a sweater which demonstrates that “vegan wool” can be used just as other traditional fibers are to produce environmentally- friendly clothing. Listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, Nanollose is developing a supply chain sourced from the Indonesian coconut industry, among others. “The goal is to work with key partners who will simply take food waste, produce our Nullarbor fiber, and then we will seamlessly integrate them into the clothing supply chain with no retrofitting to existing machinery or processes required”, says Alfie Germano, managing director.
Another innovation in the fashion industry comes from Germany. The Munich-based brand nat-2 is producing “vegan sneakers” made from recycled coffee, coffee beans, and coffee tree plants, which cover up to 50 % of the shoe’s surface. These luxury sneakers are one-hundred-percent handmade in Italy and they are produced under fair labor conditions.
Photos: © Nonallose/ nat-2