Global sustainable fashion innovation platform, Fashion for Good, launches the ‘Untapped Agricultural Waste Project’ to validate and scale technologies that can successfully transform agricultural waste into sustainable textile fibers.
The consortium project will assess the technical feasibility of natural fibers created by the selected innovators using agricultural waste such as rice husks, hemp, wheat straw, banana, and pineapple, with catalytic funding provided by Laudes Foundation, Fashion for Good partners Adidas, BESTSELLER, Vivobarefoot, and Birla Cellulose, and six innovators.
The 18-month ‘Untapped Agricultural Waste Project’ aims to discover innovative ways to repurpose agricultural waste into viable new natural fiber blends that can replace virgin fibers sourced from unsustainable commodities like oil.
The project also uses findings from its 2021 study, 'Spinning Future Threads,' authored by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the World Resources Institute India, and Wageningen University and Research, with catalytic funding from Laudes Foundation.
The research maps agricultural waste in eight South and Southeast Asian countries, revealing untapped prospects in agricultural waste streams such as rice husks, wheat straw, banana, and pineapple production, which are the project's emphasis.
The six fiber innovators, AltMat, Bananatex, Chlorohemp, Agraloop by Circular Systems, HempTex India, and 9Fiber, will continue to develop a variety of natural fibers and fiber mixes with an emphasis on using the largest percentage of agricultural waste while meeting performance criteria. Birla Cellulose will collaborate closely with the innovators to develop and prepare their innovative materials for wider acceptance in the fashion supply chain, with the participating project brand partners supporting testing and eventual scaling of these fibers.
Katrin Ley, managing director, Fashion for Good, said that this ambitious initiative investigates a new source of feedstocks for the fashion industry that, if scaled up, might assist both agriculture and the textile sector achieve net-zero emissions. They believe that these varied agricultural waste streams, which would otherwise have few secondary uses, have a lot of promise. They can reduce pressure on existing natural fibers and shift away from unsustainable materials and sources by using innovative technologies to generate natural fibers.
The project's first phase will end in December 2022. The next phase of the project will pilot agri-waste fibers from selected innovators in commercial facilities in conjunction with partner brands and supply chain actors to manufacture bigger quantities, in order to boost supply chain acceptance and progress beyond lab scale. The goal of the next phase is to promote scalability by allowing for more brand offtake agreements and financing to facilitate scaling.
Agricultural waste causes enormous issues for farmers in South and Southeast Asia, according to Fashion for Good, and in many cases, the waste is not recycled and is instead burned.
At the same time, as highlighted in Fashion for Good's recent report 'Unlocking the Trillion-Dollar Fashion Decarbonisation Opportunity,' the extraction and processing of virgin, conventional fibers such as cotton and polyester account for up to 39% of greenhouse gas emissions in the textile supply chain. The paper lays out a financial and solution-oriented path for the industry to achieve its net-zero goal.
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