Environmentally-friendly fabric created from microbial cellulose
You may have noticed an increasing number of hangers in high street fashion outlets sporting clothing made with the environmentally conscious shopper in mind. Organic cotton, hemp, bamboo and even recycled plastics are being transformed into clothing for eco-aware fashionistas. Australia's Nanollose is going an even greener route with a system that makes use of biomass waste from the coconut industry to create a plant-free fiber with much less of an environmental footprint than widely-used textiles like cotton.
"My 30-year history in the textile and apparel industry has opened my eyes to the environmental concerns that plague the industry," company CEO Alfie Germano revealed. "My vision is for Nanollose to be at the forefront of offering fashion and textile groups a viable alternative, and decreasing the industry's reliance on environmentally burdensome, raw materials."
The raw materials used to manufacture much of today's textiles requires a lot of agricultural land to be given over to plant-based production, not to mention heavy use of chemicals to protect against pests and process the fibers, as well as lots of precious water.
"To create the rayon fibers that are currently used in clothing and textiles, countless trees have to be cut down, chipped and then treated with hazardous chemicals, and to make enough cotton for a single t-shirt it takes 2,700 liters of water," said Germano. "To put that into perspective, that's enough water for one person to drink for two and a half years."
Nanollose makes use of organic waste matter to produce a sustainable fiber it's calling Nullarbor. The company says that the nanocellulose for its fiber is produced using microbes that convert biomass waste into cellulose. The process doesn't require the felling of trees or use of arable land, and takes less than a month.
The company currently uses coconut by-products from Indonesia, which are synthesized and converted into usable rayon fibers courtesy of the company's proprietary technology. These existing industry sources are said to be sufficient for production during the pilot phase of the project, but Nanollose intends to make use of waste from larger industries when full-scale production kicks off.
"Our process has the potential to convert a number of biomass waste products from the beer, wine and liquid food industries into fibers using very little land, water or energy in the process," explained Germano.
Nanollose launched what's believed to be world's first plant-free viscose-rayon fiber at the Planet Textiles Summit in Vancouver, Canada, on May 22, and you can see a short overview in the video below.
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