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Eco-fabrics: bizarre innovations for a sustainable future

Posted by
on February 01, 2017 at 04:18 PM

© Courtesy of internet sources

The earliest form of fabrics known to mankind is animal skin and banana leaves. Historically speaking, fabric has always been spun or hand woven using natural materials like linen, wool, flax. It is much later, with Industrial revolution, that machine made and synthetic fabric was widely used. According to the global apparel fibre consumption, cotton makes up for one third of fibre consumption in the textile industry. Cotton industry is labour intensive and requires chemicals and freshwater. Most of our fabric requirements these days are fulfilled by polluting textile materials like cotton and polyester. With greater green awareness and environmental consciousness, eco fabrics that are obtained from food products are becoming very popular these days. New range of materials made of waste are emerging that could define the future of fabrics.

Ingeo, Fabric Made from Corn

We all know of corn as a staple food in our diet, whether its Chinese or popcorns. But here is a different use of corn starch. Ingeo is a fabric made out of corn. Not only is the raw materials eco-friendly but so is the manufacturing process. The fabric is made using corn grown for other purposes as it required only 0.5% of the crops. So no new crops are required to be grown for the fabric. The resulting fabric is soft, anti-wrinkle, antibacterial, combats odour and sweat, and dries quickly. It is suitable for sensitive skin as well.

Podtex, Fabric from Used Coffee Pods

Australian textile designer Rachel Rodwell, discovered more uses of coffee pods, in addition to waking up our senses. Presenting her take on sustainable design, she launched her premier collection of bright, intricate textiles created from used Nespresso coffee pods. Her inspiration came from the vivid colors, patterns and architecture of India, and also from the sustainable ways of living that includes making the best out of waste.

Cocono, Fabric made from Coconut husks

Fabric made out of coconut husks is the latest addition to the list of benefits of coconut. The fibrous quality of the husks is a contributing factor for the fabric. A thousand coconuts can be put together to get 10kg of fibre. Activated carbon from the shells and other food waste are used together with recycled polyester to form odour-absorbing, fast-drying, UV protecting and moisture wicking fabric.

Pinatex, Fabric made from Pineapple leaves

Carmen Hijosa, founder of Ananas Anam, developed Piñatex as an alternative to leather and other petroleum based textiles. Bothered by the heavy use of chemicals in the leather tanning process he decided to do something about it. The result is a fabric made from the byproduct of pineapple harvest that is leaf fibres. Thereby, the process doesn’t require any additional pineapples to be grown. Cherry on the cake is the biomass created in the process of Pinatex which can be used as manure for the next harvest of pineapples! The material is still being developed and yet to be available in the market. Unlike leather, it is biodegradable and cheap, but just like leather, it can be used to make handbags and shoes. 

Jusi, Fabric made from Banana stems

Banana fabric, or jusi, was a very popular material, before cotton took its place, especially in Asian countries. Different layers of the stem was used for different purpose, inner layer being the finest was used for sarees and kimonos. Research indicates, 37kg of banana stems can produce 1 kg of fabric. Instead of wasting this potential of banana stems, the eco textile company, Offset warehouse, has partnered with an NGO in Nepal for banana fabric production. The resulting fabric is almost carbon neutral and suitable for jackets, skirts and trousers. The NGO ensures that the workers get paid appropriately and operate in safe human conditions. 

Fabric made from Castor Bean Oil

Castor Bean Oil has been discovered to be useful as a substitute for harmful phthalates in the process of making plastic. The resulting plastic is organic, durable and flexible. Thus far, it has been used in manufacturing sunglasses. Smith and Dragon are both known for using it in their products.

Fabric made from soybean

Another great eco-friendly alternative is fabric is made from the hulls of soy beans, obtained as a by-product of soybean oil production. It is a sustainable textile fiber made from renewable and biodegradable resources. Also referred to as the vegetable cashmere, for its lightness and silky softness, it is very easy to take care of, absorbs dyes quickly, requiring less dye-stuffs, UV resistant, moisture absorbent and anti-bacterial. 

Fabric from sour milk

The milk fabric was created by a 28-year-old German biologist and fashion designer Anke Domaske by using sour milk. The process is easy and green. First water is eliminated from spoiled milk and protein is extracted from it. This is ground into threads after it solidifies and turned into fabric. Resulting fabric is silk like smooth, holds dye, is breathable and it captures the moisture to make skin smooth. The fabric does wrinkle easily and required ironing.

Fabric from Fermented Wine

A handful scientists from Western Australia have innovated a fabric using wine and few microbes! A bacteria called acetobacter is cultured in red wine, which works into fermenting the alcohol into fibers. The fabric is biodegradable, less toxic, not labour intensive, cheap and easy to manufacture. It can be made on a form, thereby producing a seamless design. The demerit of the process is the end product vinegar, leaving an odour in the fabric.

Tencel, Fabric made from Wood Pulp

Revolutionary innovation as far as environmentally sustainable textiles are considered, also referred to as Lyocell, it is a fibre obtained from wood pulp. It has been certified by international Forest Stewardship Council as a 100% biodegradable textile. That’s not the only merit of the material. It is moisture absorbent, anti-bacterial, soft, breathable, lightweight and comfortable, versatile and durable.

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