New sustainable textile fibers 1
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting in the world, so it is obvious why innovation in the textile fiber industry is much needed. Plants that you would normally eat can be used to produce fibers with, like pineapples, coffee, bananas and stinging nettles. When reading about all these alternatives you might wonder why petroleum-based fibers are still used today. Time for a change and choose fabrics made of sustainable fibers!
Pineapple fiber/Piñatex: Pineapple fiber (brand name Piñatex) is made from pineapple leaves and is a sustainable fiber since the leaves are the byproduct of existing agriculture, and their use creates an additional income stream for farming communities. The long fibers of the leaves are extracted (decortication) and the leftover biomass can be used as a nutrient-rich natural fertiliser or a biofuel. The fibers then get degummed and undergo an industrial process to become a non-woven mesh, the base of Piñatex. The rolls of non-woven mesh are transported to Spain for specialized finishing, giving Piñatex its leather-like appearance, creating a textile that is soft and flexible, yet very durable.
Lyocell/Tencel: Tencel is the brand name of Lyocell by Lenzing AG. It is used for clothing (activewear), but also in the beauty industry for face masks and wipes. Lyocell is a form of rayon and consists of a cellulose fiber from certain types of trees, mostly eucalyptus and bamboo. Eucalyptus trees grow quickly without the use of pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation. Lyocell is made by mixing wood chips with a solvent to make a wet mixture. This mixture is pushed through small holes so it forms threads. The fibers are treated with a solution of amino oxide (non-toxic) and then spun into yarn and woven into cloth. Lyocell is considered a sustainable fiber, because the cellulose comes from a renewable source and the amino oxide is almost completely recycled during manufacturing in a closed loop process. This special process received the "European Award for the Environment" from the European Union.
Modal: Modal is a semi-synthetic rayon, which was originally developed in Japan in 1951. Lenzing Modal® is made from sustainably harvested beech trees in PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes) certified European forests. It is breathable and smooth like silk, making it popular for underwear, and it is around 50% more water-absorbent per unit volume than cotton, making it popular in activewear. It is also resistant to shrinkage and pilling. Modal is made from regenerated cellulose pulped into liquid form and then forced through tiny holes, creating the fiber. This is then woven together to make the modal fabric.
Lenzing has developed a process in which 95% of production materials are recovered, minimizing emissions and conserving resources. When choosing modal, be aware though that not all manufacturers use sustainably managed beech tree plantations and the Rainforest Action Network has accused other modal manufacturers of forest destruction in Indonesia. Modal garments manufactured in China are often made with Indonesian modal. It is also important to consider that Lenzing sells yarns to mills and manufacturers who make fabrics. The environmental impact involved in weaving fibers into fabrics can be significant, with conventional methods using high levels of water and chemicals. Choose brands with transparent production processes to make sure you’re making the most ethical choice.
Smartcell: smartcel™ sensitive is produced by Lenzing AG using the Lyocell process, a closed loop with no chemicals released. Zinc oxide is embedded in the fiber adding soothing and anti-inflammatory capabilitie. This makes it It skin friendly and very useful for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions such as eczema or neurodermitis. Since zinc is a component of skin building enzymes, it operates directly on the skin. An active exchange between the fiber and the skin occurs when the garment is worn. Furthermore, zinc oxide has strong antibacterial properties, especially against odor causing bacteria, which helps to make garments stay fresh longer. smartcel™ sensitive is anEco-Tex® standard 100 certified fiber.
Bolt threads: Based on spiders´ silk fibers, Bolt Threads has developed a technology to replicate this process sustainably at large scale. The fibers primarily made of sugar, water, salts and yeast. The yeast produces silk protein in a liquid form during fermentation after which the silk protein can be turned into fiber through wet-spinning, the same way fibers like acrylic and rayon are made. No chemicals are used and the main ingredient for the fiber is sugar from plants that are grown, harvested and replanted. Bolt Threads believes in the responsibility to find more sustainable ways of creating materials.
Refibra™: Refibra™ is a new fiber produced with cotton scraps and wood and is produced by Lenzing AG. The fibers are produced in the lyocell production process. Refibra™ fibers thus combine two advantages: the recycling of cotton scraps and the most sustainable production technologies. Refibra™ fibers offer the textile industry a solution to introduce circular economy in textile industry, which is very much needed: every year 80% of the textiles bought end up in landfills.
Coffee yarn: Although this is not a completely natural fiber, it is much more sustainable than other fibers. The Taiwanese company Singtex makes coffee yarn out of coffee waste (S.Café ®). With recycled PET bottles polyester is made which is then mixed with roasted coffee grounds to create coffee yarn. The coffee fabric provides an alternative to cotton, a water-intensive crop. S.Café ® fabrics provide excellent odor control, UV protection and fast drying benefits. Besides S.Café ® they also make S.Café ICE-CAFÉ™, a fabric that is able to cool down the temperature of our skin about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius compared to common fabrics. The fabric itself has a cooling feel. Singtex also makes Sefia, a textile line that combines Lyocell and coffee grounds to make biodegradable cloth, and Stormfleece, a sustainable fleece fabric.