Researchers develop coating that prevents synthetic fabrics from shedding harmful microplastics in the wash

Read the full story from the University of Toronto.

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto have designed a solution to reduce the amount of microplastic fibres shed when washing synthetic fabrics.

A ‘game changer’ for clothing recycling?

Read the full story from the University of Michigan.

Less than 15% of the 92 million tons of clothing and other textiles discarded annually are recycled—in part because they are so difficult to sort. Woven-in labels made with inexpensive photonic fibers, developed by a University of Michigan-led team, could change that.

What do oranges, coffee grounds and seaweed have in common? They outshine cotton in sustainable fashion


by Rajkishore Nayak, RMIT University Vietnam

Ever considered the carbon footprint of manufacturing your favourite shirt?

The average cotton shirt produces 2.1 kilograms of carbon dioxide – but a polyester shirt produces over twice as much (5.5 kilograms). It might come as no surprise that the fashion industry is responsible for around 5% of global CO₂ emissions.

Some natural fibres can also take a heavy toll on the environment. Last week, for example, an ABC investigation revealed hundreds of hectares of the Northern Territory’s pristine tropical savanna had been cleared to make way for cotton farms, sometimes without permit.

So, are there more sustainable textiles we should be producing and purchasing instead?

Research, including our own ongoing research, points to certain “non-traditional fibres” as new green alternatives. These include fibres produced from wastes – think coffee waste and recycled plastic bottles – as well as seaweed, orange, lotus, corn and mushroom.

Brands such as Patagonia, Mud Jeans, Ninety Percent, Plant Faced Clothing and Afends are among the brands leading the way in incorporating sustainable fibres into their products. But the true turning point will likely come when more of the biggest names in fashion get involved, and it’s high time they invest.

The problems with traditional fibres

There are two types of traditional fibres: natural and synthetic. Natural fibres, such as cotton and flax, have certain advantages over synthetic fibres which are derived from oil and gas.

When sustainability is considered, natural fibres are preferred over the synthetic fibres due to, for instance, their ability to biodegrade and their availability in the environment.

However, some natural fibres (particularly cotton) need a lot of fresh water and chemicals that are toxic to the environment for harvesting. For example, it takes 10,000 litres of water on average to grow just 1 kilogram of cotton.

It takes an average of 10,000 litres of water to grow 1kg of cotton. Karl Wiggers/Unsplash

In comparison, synthetic fibres consume a significantly lower amount of water (about one hundredth), but a significantly higher amount of energy.

Petrochemical fibres made from fossil fuels – such as polyester, nylon and acrylic – are the backbone of fast fashion. Yet another big problem with such products is that they don’t easily decompose.

As they slowly break down, petrochemical fibres release microplastics. These not only contaminate the environment, but also enter the food chain and pose health risks to animals and humans.

You may have also come across blended fabrics, which are produced with a combination of two or more types of fibres. But these pose challenges in sorting and recycling, as it’s not always possible or easy to recover different fibres when they’re combined.

Clothes on racks and strewed on the flood
The fashion industry is responsible for around 5% of global emissions. Shutterstock

Non-traditional fibres: a potential game changer

Amid the overconsumption of traditional fibres, several global fashion brands have started to adopt new fibres derived from seaweed, corn, and mushroom. This includes Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, Patagonia, and Algiknit.

Patagonia is among few global clothing brands spearheading sustainable materials. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Other emerging natural fibres include lotus, pineapple and banana fibres. Lotus fibres are extracted from the plant stem, banana fibres are extracted from the petiole (the stalk that connects the leaf and stem), and pineapple fibres are extracted from pineapple leaves.

The process of extracting fibres from wastes such as orange peels, coffee grounds, and even from the protein of waste milk, has also been well researched, and clothes have been successfully manufactured from these materials.

All these examples of non-traditional fibres are free from many of the problems mentioned earlier, such as heavy resource consumption (particularly fresh water), use of toxic chemicals, and the use of large amounts of energy (for synthetic fibres).

Further, these fibres are biodegradable at their end of life and don’t release microplastics when you wash them.

Meanwhile, there has been tremendous growth in the use of recycled synthetic fibres, which reduces the use of virgin materials, energy and chemical consumption. Recycling plastics such as drink bottles to make clothing is also becoming more common. Such innovations can help lower our dependency on raw materials and mitigate plastic pollution.

Plastic water bottle scrunched in a hand
Recycling plastic bottles to create synthetic fibres is a great way to minimise waste. Shutterstock

What’s more, the selection of appropriate colour combinations during recycling and processing for fabrics can avoid the need for dyeing.

What now?

Fashion companies can reduce the load on the environment through seriously investing in producing sustainable fibres and fabrics. Many are still in research stage or not receiving wider commercial applications.

Fashion manufacturers, large fashion brands and retailers need to invest in the research and development to scale-up production of these fibres. And machine manufacturers also need to develop technologies for large-scale harvesting and manufacturing raw materials, such as sustainable fibre and yarn.

At the same time, you, as a consumer, have an important role to play by demanding information about products and holding brands accountable.

Rajkishore Nayak, Associate Professor , RMIT University Vietnam

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Recycled cashmere and mushroom leather: How Reformation is doubling down on sustainability

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The clothing company Reformation sells a lot of cashmere—as of now, 39 different styles of cashmere dresses, along with cashmere hats, scarves, skirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and more than a dozen variations of cashmere sweaters. While the material actually makes up only a tiny fraction of the company’s total fabric use, cashmere is responsible for nearly half of the brand’s carbon footprint. So Reformation has spent the last few years working to replace cashmere with a recycled version instead. This fall, it launched a collection with 90% recycled fiber, a step closer to its goal of eliminating new cashmere completely. 

MnTAP publication highlights work of 2022 P2 interns

The 2022 MnTAP Solutions magazine highlights the projects led by our 16 talented interns and the companies that supported their recommendations to reduce waste, water, energy. These projects resulted in proposed solutions that could save the companies $3,068,000 annually as well as significant environmental impacts.

Roughly 2,079 tons of Halloween costume waste sent to landfills

Read the full story at Waste360.

As the Halloween season comes to a close, millions of costumes will begin making their way to landfills, many of which have only been worn a single time. A research report completed by Fairyland Trust and supported by Hubbub examined this Halloween costume waste system and how to potentially reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Ultrafabrics removes PFAS/PFOAs from most textiles, continuing its sustainability journey

Read the full story at Furniture Today.

Ultrafabrics, a global performance fabric brand across 11 markets, is continuing its sustainability journey by removing PFAS/PFOA’s from the bulk of its textile offerings. Ultrafabrics was also awarded ‘achiever’ status from MindClick’s Sustainability Assessment program, a database of environmental health performance ratings of suppliers and products in architecture and design.

ASICS launches low-carbon emissions sneaker

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Sportswear company ASICS announced today the launch of the GEL-LYTE III CM 1.95, a new sneaker produced with a series of low carbon materials, technologies and design details.

According to the company, with a carbon footprint of only 1.95kg of C02e for every pair produced, the GEL-LYTE III CM 1.95 is the lowest CO2e sneakers currently available on the market.

Closing the loop on commercial textile waste

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Founded by Jessica Schreiber and Camille Tagle, FABSCRAP was created to meet New York City’s commercial textile recycling needs. With the expansion of fast-fashion companies and the demand for trendy clothing growing every day, a company such as FABSCRAP coming alongside corporations to responsibly handle textile waste is more needed than ever. 

Through their work, materials that traditionally would have gone to landfill are being properly recycled and made available for reuse. 

Their volunteer network has grown from just crafters to anyone with a passion to help the industry become more sustainable. FABSCRAP provides convenient pickup and recycling of textiles for businesses in New York City and Philadelphia. 

Schreiber and Tagle met with the Impact Report to discuss their careers in waste management and fashion, textile waste from mills to landfills, and to tell us about their new FABSCRAP Philadelphia location. 

Read more about their impact in their most recent report: FABSCRAP 2020 Annual Report.

This pastel clothing is dyed with old scraps of fabric

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The light blue color in a new hoodie didn’t come from conventional dye: Instead, the sustainability-focused clothing brand Pangaia worked with a partner to create dye from scraps of blue fabric collected from its factory floor. A rainbow of other colors in the new product line, from light pink and apricot to yellow and green, also came from transformed textile waste.

The brand’s partner, Italian textile chemical company Officina+39, turns scraps and old clothing that would otherwise be thrown out into colored powder. Using a patented process, the recycled powder becomes a dye that can be sprayed, coated, printed, or dipped onto new fabric.