New technologies for a circular economy
Technologies – MU Sustainable Innovation
The link between clothing and agriculture is ancient. The cultivation of natural fibers has provided raw materials for the textile industry for centuries. Today the aim to cut waste has triggered the development of new materials from agro-food waste, suitable for use in the textile and clothing industry.
It is not a naive, new-age, or DIY phenomenon, however. It is about research developed by universities and laboratories and then industrialized. Let’s see some non-exhaustive examples of the range of new materials of this type.
Piñatex is a company based in England that transforms waste from pineapple production. The fibers are extracted from the leaves of the pineapple plant through a decortication process. Once the leaves have been stripped of the fibers, the remaining biomass can be used as a natural nutrient-rich fertilizer or biofuel, so nothing is wasted. The fibers are then degreased and undergo an industrial process to become a non-woven fabric, which forms the basis of Piñatex®. The material is then transformed with finishes that give it a similar look to the leather, creating a flexible but resistant fabric. (www.ananas-anam.com)
Frumat, an Italian company from South Tyrol, recycles apple waste. The flour obtained by drying apple peels and cores is mixed with water and natural glue and compacted. The final material, similar to leather, is a mixture of apple fibers (50%) and polyurethane (50%), mainly used in footwear and accessories, but also for clothing.
Vegea, an Italian company, whose brand derives from the combination of VEG (Vegan) and GEA (Mother Earth), is engaged in the research and production of a new generation of bio-based materials. These include a material produced from the marc, skins, seeds, and stems of the bunch of grapes discarded in the production of wine. A bio-oil is extracted from the seeds, polymerized using a patented process. Skins and stems are used in a compound, also patented, for the production of fabrics with advanced technical properties. (www.vegeacompany.com)
Nanollose, an Australian company, produces cellulose from nanometric fibers using a bacterium (AcetobacterXylinum), not dangerous for human health, and capable of metabolizing agricultural waste. It is, therefore, an alternative to producing cellulose, the primary material of viscose, from wood. (nanollose.com)
The VTT research center of the Finnish University of Aalto, also active in the research on alternative cellulose production methods, adopts a different approach to fixing cellulose nanofibrils obtained from wood pulp with proteins taken from the cobweb threads. The result: vegetable spider silk. (bit.ly/vttresearch)