Vegans and environmental advocates, rejoice. Researchers have discovered how to turn food scraps into sustainable raw materials for fashion.
Couldn’t care less? Silence your inner sceptic with these stats: According to the European Commission, roughly 88 million tonnes of food are wasted in the EU each year, at a cost of about €143 billion. To put that in perspective, it’s about the same weight as 1,900 Titanics. Meanwhile, in the United States, an estimated 40 percent of food (or 30 million tonnes) goes to waste—and that’s not including pre-consumer leftovers.
Though plenty of people do their part in turning that waste into compost, fashion made from food byproducts presents a creative way of getting your five-a-day*.
London-based Ananas Anam develops, manufactures and sells Piñatex, a non-woven textile made from the fibres of waste pineapple leaves in the Philippines—a byproduct of the fruit’s harvest—that offers a sustainable alternative to leather.
Apart from the obvious difference between Piñatex and leather (read: no animals are harmed in the making), the production process doesn’t use any water, pesticides or fertiliser beyond what is already used to grow the pineapples. It also provides an additional revenue stream for the pineapple farmers.
Similarly, Offset Warehouse offers a fabric made from the leftover stems of banana plants after the fruit has been harvested. The socially responsible company has partnered with a Nepalese NGO to employ locals to extract fibres from the stalks and spin them into yarn which is then woven into a fabric that’s suitable for tailoring.
Orange Fiber, an Italian startup and a winner at last year’s H&M Foundation Global Change Awards, extracts cellulose from the byproduct of citrus juice production (everything that’s left over after orange juice is made) to create a new textile, instead of depleting natural resources by growing cotton or bamboo or using petroleum-based synthetics such as polyester or nylon.
Looking for an ethical alternative to goose or duck down this winter? 37.5 Technology (formerly known as Cocona) figured out that when activated carbon from coconut shells is blended with recycled polyester, it provides a higher warmth-to-weight ratio than other synthetic insulations. It’s been used in outewear from Nau, Adidas, Under Armour, Eddie Bauer and The North Face.
Not a fruit or a vegetable but a byproduct of breakfasts everywhere, coffee grounds make an excellent—and natural—odor eliminator. S.Café technology from Taiwanese company Singtex turns recycled coffee grounds into yarn and fabric that absorbs odors, reflects UV rays and dries 200 percent faster than cotton.
*not really though