5 Technologies That Could Disrupt the Clothing Industry
We live in a throwaway society these days – but things are slowly changing. The average consumer is now more aware of waste and pollution than ever before, which means clothing companies are being forced to change their ways.
Whether it’s the lethal waste in our oceans or the tons of trash in landfills, environmental issues are beginning to change shopping habits.
Here are five exciting new technologies that could disrupt the clothing industry.
1. Yarn Made with Food Waste
Photo credit: Photo by Kaitlyn Chow
According to Hindawi, the United States alone is responsible for up to 25 million tons of orange waste a year. While degradable, citrus peel takes a long time to break down in sealed landfills. One way to reduce this type of waste is to turn it into clothing.
A company in Sicily has developed a way to turn citrus fruits into raw fibers suitable for making clothes. Using a selection of chemical reagents, orange peel can be turned into yarn. Strong and durable, this sustainable material is made by Orange Fiber, and it can be dyed or blended with fibers such as cotton and nylon.
2. Recycled Jeans
Jeans that end up at recycling plants are often broken down to create insulation — but the prices this material fetches are relatively low. A more cost-effective approach involves turning old jeans back into cotton for reuse in the clothing industry.
A sustainable solvent is used to dissolve the cotton into a raw material similar in nature to pure cotton. This new fiber can then be spun into something clothing manufacturers can use. Based in Seattle, Evrnu is the company that has pioneered the process, and it is already supplying the likes of retail giant H&M.
3. Microbes That “Eat” Polyester
Made from petroleum, polyester is a hard-wearing, durable and versatile fiber that can be produced cost-effectively. Unfortunately, recycling this man-made fiber is difficult — and quite expensive. Even when it’s possible, the results are mixed, and usually not up to the standard required by clothing manufacturers.
But a new microbe has been developed, that can break down old items made of polyester clothing — leaving a usable clothing fiber behind. The process involved also works on items that include other materials, such as cotton and wool. Although not exactly the same as the original polyester, the raw material created can be combined with polyester to create garments of a similar quality.
4. Fibers Made with Algae
Photo credit: Photo by John Mark Arnold
Cotton production involves heavy industrial processes that use huge amounts of water and leave large carbon footprints in their wake. However, there is now a company using algae to create strong and hard-wearing clothing fibers. The great thing about the method is that it takes place in oceans and lakes — leaving land free for food production. The thread created is also antibacterial, which means it can prevent bad odors.
5. Mushroom Fabric
A Danish product designer called Jonas Edvard has developed a strong, durable clothing fiber from the mycelium of mushrooms. The material is called MYX, and can be grown in just four weeks. Edvard is able to use the waste produce from food manufacturers, so the environmental impact and costs are minimal. The mushroom waste is combined with fibers left over from rope production to create something manufacturers can use.
The sustainable fashion industry is blazing a trail in the world of eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing. Not only could these technologies reduce waste, they might also help manufacturers slash their costs.