Trending: Could Food Waste Be the Future of Fashion?

Trending: Could Food Waste Be the Future of Fashion?

A recent study analyzes agricultural waste streams in Asia and charts a roadmap for establishing alternative textile value streams at scale; while Lenzing puts this into practice with a lyocell fiber made from orange pulp and wood

Ag waste-based textiles a sustainable fashion solution poised for growth

A farmer gathers rice straw | Image credit: DoDo Phanthamaly/Pexels

As the circular apparel market is projected to reach $77

in the next five years and new circular textile
seem to pop up weekly, a recent study shows that there are enough usable
agricultural residue streams from South and Southeast Asia alone for
widescale production of upcycled natural fiber textiles.

Spinning Future

— a joint report from the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the World
Resources Institute
(WRI) and Wageningen University and Research
(WUR), commissioned by the Laudes Foundation — analyzed large quantities
of agricultural residues in eight countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia,
India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and
Vietnam. The research focused on South and Southeast Asia, because these
regions are known for both their production of crop waste and textiles.

As the report points out, current textile production processes have disastrous
effects on the environment. More than 60 percent of fibers used in apparel are
oil-based and place a burden on natural resources due to unchecked,
unsustainable production. Similarly, natural fibers such as conventional
— the second-most widely used textile fiber — rely on intensive agrochemical and
water use.

The Evolution of Nature-Based Carbon Offsets

Learn more from South Pole, the Arbor Day Foundation, Justdiggit and Sustainable Surf about the exploding voluntary carbon market and the wide variety of nature-based carbon-offset schemes available — at SB’21 San Diego, October 18-21.

The researchers looked at more than 40 crops to find the most suitable for
fashion fiber production; and the authors outline actionable recommendations for
setting up alternative textile value chains based on the agri-residues with the
highest potential — including rice, wheat and other grain straws; banana stems,
sugarcane ‘trash’ and pineapple leaves. Currently, these waste streams are often
disposed of through mass burning, causing heavy air pollution. The study
proposes a roadmap for collaboration and innovation for the fashion and food
industries to come together to enable these alternative feedstocks to help the
fashion industry build long-term sustainable value chains.

“To reduce its growing dependence on fossil fuels, the fashion industry must
prioritize and accelerate its transition to a circular and regenerative system,”
says Anita Chester, Head of Materials at the Laudes Foundation. “There is an
incredible opportunity to create value out of waste. We do hope this will help
fashion, working in collaboration with food, to fast-track alternatives to tip
the scales in favor of the planet and its people.”

In addition to the major climate benefits of reducing waste and pollution,
recycling residue into textile fibers would have important economic and societal
benefits including improved farmer livelihoods.

“Achieving climate resilience requires innovative social and environmental
solutions, as well as enabling government policies,” says A. Nambi
, Director of the Climate Resilience Practice at WRI India. “The
conversion of agricultural residues as feedstock to the textile industry is a
step in the right direction. But moving forward, we must also build on the
lessons learnt from our past experiences and ensure that the solutions empower
farmers and support their livelihoods, simultaneously.”

More and more circular textile innovations using ag-residue-based fibers are
cropping up — we’ve seen fabric and accessories from companies such as
and Able
to name a few — and expect to see many more to come.

Lenzing, Orange Fiber release limited-edition Tencel™ made from orange pulp, wood sources

Image credit: Luca Distefano/Orange Fiber

Speaking of which, Lenzing Group — a
leading global producer of wood-based specialty fibers — recently partnered with
Italian textile innovator Orange Fiber, which has
patented the pulp production process for citrus by-products, to produce the
first ever Tencel™-branded lyocell fiber made of orange and wood pulp. The
resulting Tencel™ Limited Edition illustrates both companies’ shared vision
to enhance sustainability in the textile and fashion industry and inspire the
industry to push the boundaries of innovation.

“The introduction of Tencel™ Limited Edition leverages our leading edge in
highly sustainable production
and we are proud to collaborate on this special edition fiber series with Orange
Fiber,” said Gert Kroner, VP of Global Research and Development at the
Lenzing Group. “By upcycling waste materials such as orange peels in our
products, we are taking proactive steps towards a more sustainable future and
minimizing the environmental impact of waste.”

“Lenzing is an industry leader in sustainable fibers; and we are proud to
partner with them to create this new material which will become a valuable
resource for the textile and fashion industry. This pioneering production model
can help revolutionize the fashion industry and empower brands who are looking
for eco-responsible textile value chains,” said Orange Fiber CEO Enrica
. “With consumers becoming more eco-conscious, it is imperative for the
industry to evolve in tandem and innovate with sustainable materials to stay
efficient, competitive and save our planet for future generations. This virtuous
synergy represents a fundamental step in our journey towards sustainable fabric
production from renewable sources, validates our patent industrially, and
enables us to increase our production capacity thus satisfying the needs of
fashion brands.”

TENCEL™ Limited Edition in partnership with Orange Fiber will be showcased in a
new collection of fabrics that Orange Fiber will present to the market in
October 2021.

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