Conservation X Labs has announced the winners of its Microfiber Innovation Challenge, with solutions aimed at preventing or reducing the quantity of microscopic fibers that break off clothing during wear, laundry, and disposal.
Conservation X Labs' Microfiber Innovation Challenge awarded 5 solutions a total of $525,000 for their capacity to minimize or avoid microfibre contamination.
Conservation X Labs, which is supported by the Flotilla Foundation and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, said the winners stood out among 19 country applications for innovative solutions that aim to transform clothing and textiles.
The Microfiber Innovation Challenge is a global competition that seeks upstream technologies to reduce microfiber pollution by replacing textiles that are sources of plastic microfibres or improving textile production methods to reduce microfibre shedding.
Dr Alex Dehgan, CEO and co-founder of Washington-based technology company Conservation X Labs (CXL), said that each of these five winners has the potential to defend planetary health and eliminate the harm caused by microplastic pollution on ecosystems and human health. These microscopic plastics and fibers can be discovered in their drinking water, food, and even in the air. These breakthroughs will be critical in the development of sustainable textiles for the future.
The winners were chosen by a panel of seven judges comprised of members from the garment industry, materials scientists, conservationists, and investors, based on criteria such as feasibility, growth potential, environmental impact, and novelty of the approach.
Victor Friedberg, one of the judges and the founder and managing partner of New Epoch Capital, said that from a venture standpoint, they selected winners who are attempting to mend existing systems. They're going to need this balance of disrupters and menders to revolutionize the area in order to change the sector into one where sustainable materials in clothes are scaled and to meet the urgency of now.
Prizes totaling $525,000 were distributed to the winners. As they move toward commercialization goals in 2022, they are now eligible for $25,000 in further financing from Conservation X Labs. They will also be invited to present their innovations at a Solutions Fair later this year at the headquarters of global sportswear brand Under Armour in Baltimore.
Kyle Blakely, VP materials and manufacturing innovation at Under Armour said that the winning ideas are at the forefront of the field employing technology to build next-generation fibers for sportswear and apparel that will allow brands like Under Armour to reach their sustainability goals.
Around two million tonnes of microfibres are released into the ocean every year, according to Conservation X Labs, and have been found at the summit of Mount Everest as well as in species living in the Mariana Trench, the deepest region of the ocean.
Although the health effects are not yet fully understood, research investigations have linked microfibre inhalation to lung damage in people. They each eat the equivalent of a credit card's worth of microplastic pollution due to its pervasiveness.The winners are: Mango Materials (San Francisco, US); Natural Fiber Welding (Peoria, Illinois, US); PANGAIA x MTIX Microfiber Mitigation (London and West Yorkshire, UK); Tandem Repeat Technologies (Pennsylvania, US); and Werewool (New York, US).
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