– by Mark MacDonald –
With sustainable, eco-friendly products now in greater demand, scientists and designers alike are working together to produce clothing made from recycled material or even waste. Here are some examples of innovative ideas changing the way we make clothing.
- Plastic Bottles
For decades, Patagonia has been using plastic soda bottles to make recycled polyester that is then used in their clothing. The technology is also employed by Thread, a company based in Pittsburgh that recycles plastic from Haiti and turns it into fabric for use in clothing. Using recycled plastic to make clothing not only reduces dependence on petroleum as a raw material, but also reduces the amount of plastic either burned in incinerators or piled up in landfills.
A fabric known as Lenpur has been developed that uses the cellulose from pine trees to create a textile fiber. Using the bark and branches of the trees as a source of raw materials, Lenpur is said to have excellent absorbency and also contain deodorant properties. The fiber has yet to be mass produced, but the potential for growth is strong, especially given the sustainability of using a renewable resource—the trees are pruned and not cut.
- Coconut Husks
It is estimated that over 20 billion coconuts are used worldwide each year, and only recently was it discovered that the shells and fibers could be used to make clothing. Cocona uses discarded coconut shells to make fibers that improve the drying time of materials they are used in. The company has developed products for Adidas and Eddie Bauer, marketed under their 37.5 Technology brand.
NatureWorks’ Ingeo Biopolymer creates plastic pellets out of sugar derived from corn and uses the fiber to make apparel. Microorganisms convert the sugar into lactic acid and, through a process known as hydrolysis, dextrose is created from the plant starch. The result; a polymer chain ready to be used in all manner of products, including apparel. Because Ingeo is made from plants as opposed to oil, its use can reduce greenhouse gases and the use of non-renewable energy significantly, while providing clothing with resistance to staining, low odor retention and outstanding moisture management.
Taiwan-based Singtex offers products through their S. Cafe brand made using old coffee grounds, and boasts that the odor-controlling qualities of coffee are present in the clothing made from it. Holden’s eco2sy jacket uses insulation made from coffee grounds combined with recycled plastic bottles, and Mountain Design’s Innsbruck Coffee Fibre Down Jacket also uses a similar technology. With the massive popularity of coffee, it is certain there will be no shortage of grounds to use in the future.
Qmilch, a fabric created by Anke Domaske from the milk protein casein, is made by combining heated milk with ingredients like beeswax to make thread that can be used in clothing. Qmilch uses significantly less water to produce than cotton does, and apparently feels like silk. The fabric also purportedly helps regulate body temperature and circulation.
From plastic bottles to milk, innovators are finding new ways of making clothing from eco-friendly materials and as the world faces challenges like climate change and sustainability, the need for such technology is now greater than ever.