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: Conheça o couro ecológico feito com sobras de abacaxi que ...

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)

The beauty of Apple Eco Leather: Stunning eco-friendly Vegan ...

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.

Wine leather: What you could be wearing next season - Decanter

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 – Nanollose is a leading research and development ...

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)


Sustainability is becoming more important in consumer choices overall.

Walk the vegan walk, as well as talking the talk

Generation Z is generation green.

The cohort of shoppers typically 22 and under is more willing to pay up for sustainable brands compared to other demographics, according to a study by First Insight. The findings by the digital research company found that 73 percent of those it surveyed would pay more for sustainable items, with the majority of that chunk willing to pay a 10 percent price premium.

“With Generation Z on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers this year, retailers and brands must start supercharging sustainability practices now if they are to keep pace,” says First Insight CEO Greg Petro. “With every generation, sustainability is becoming further embedded in purchase decisions.”

Retailers are racing to meet rising consumer demand for sustainable or environmentally-friendly products. Apparel is a notoriously wasteful industry, sucking up vast amounts of water and easily discarding clothing. Some retailers like Gap and Everlane have invested in sustainable business practices while others have built their business models around it. The second-hand apparel market comprised of companies like the RealReal and ThredUP that buy and sell high-quality used clothes are gaining in popularity as environmental concerns gain traction.

The study of 1,000 U.S. respondents showed the Gen Z population beat out the preceding cohort known as Millennials, as well as Generation X, which refers to the group of people born after the Baby Boomers, in terms of preference for sustainable items. The Baby Boomer demographic, often the grandparents of Gen Z, were the “hold outs,” according to the study. Still, sustainability is becoming more important in consumer choices overall and the majority of respondents expect brands and retailers to become more sustainable, according to First Insight.

—Bloomberg News


The scarcity of resources has been affecting the fashion industry and the forecast is that world reserves will decline considerably. According to estimates such as the Global Footprint Network, humans used the equivalent of 1.7 of the planet’s natural resources in 2018. As oil, land and water feed the avid supply chain of the sector, from growing and livestock to water irrigation and oil extraction, what kind of alternatives do we have?

The spark of hope lies in the alternative renewable sources of food or marine and plant life. Laboratories and material startups have been experimenting with alternatives that have replaced natural ingredients for years, but it is the partnerships with avant-garde fashion brands that begin to streamline ideas with their unique luxury clothing and bags and their tennis launches for the niche market.

The growing demand for vegan or untested animal products will help the acceptance of biomaterials. A lot of big brands and new brands stopped using animal material and some of them already started using 100% natural and biodegradable materials to develop their collection, names as Stella McCartney, Reebok, Chanel and H&M.

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