The fashion industry is considered the second most polluting industry in the world. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation report (A new textiles economy: redesigns fashion’s future, Ellen Mcarthur Foundation, 2017) , the sector has a huge impact on the whole ecosystem: indeed, every year it produces 1.2 billion tonnes, more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Moreover, during the products life, clothes washing releases in the environment plastic microfibers in a quantity equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. Finally, due to the scarce re-use of clothes and to the fast fashion, every second the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is land filled or burned. These data demonstrate that way we produce, dye, use and dispose of our clothes is not anymore sustainable and that a rapid change in production, consumption and products end life is necessary to preserve the ecosystems. Today consumers and environment demad for a more sustainable textile production and consumption and for this reason, many designers and large companies have already adopted renewable fabrics and fibers in their collections and take greater responsibility for what they produce and their disposal, contributing to a change in general public awareness.

Are we ready for bio-based sustainable fashion?

Renewable raw materials can be processed into fibres of a new performance class using innovative technologies. They are environmentally friendly and help to solve waste problems. The sustainability of a textile product is determined by the choice of raw material. The general goal is to use as little as possible raw material sources and reduce our dependency on fossil resources. Using renewable raw materials and cultivating them to save water and energy is just as important as resource-saving production processes. Companies and research institutes are focused on making the entire textile value chain from raw materials, production and useful life to disposal more sustainable than ever before.

We have been hearing about many: Biodegradable shoes that can go in the compost bin when you’re done wearing them, bio-based faux fur, collections suitable for vegans. Stella Mc Cartney, Leonardo Di Caprio, Prada, Timberland, Adidas, H&M and many other companies, stylists and famous people have joined the sustainable movement of the textile industry. Which not only offers advantages from an environmental and social point of view, but also from an economic one.

The fashion industry is hungry to create a more environmentally-conscious fashion landscape, with the shape of circular bieconomy.

What bio-based alternatives to petrol-based fabric are already available on the market?

The textile industry has traditionally used natural materials: wool, linen, cotton, hemp. And yet precisely this industry embraced the use of synthetic petroleum-based fibres after the Second World War. Other solutions more innovative and very original, come from by-products and waste from other industries sector (forestry, agro-food, fishing, etc.).

Let’s discover some of the biodegradable alternatives based on renewable raw materials.

TENCEL™ (Lenzing) uses wood cellulose to provide a wide range of products for fashion, home textiles, sports and outdoor wear, protection wear, cosmetic and hygiene products.
Vegea, uses leftovers from wine making to create fully vegetal leather, also called grape leather.

Orange Fiber patented and manufactures the first sustainable fabric from citrus juice by-products.

Pinatex, an innovative natural textile made from pineapple leaf ?bre. Due di Latte makes clothing with milk fiber, uses the waste casein from the food industries: casein is separated from whey, subsequently denatured and then transformed into a fiber. Leather made from fungi is a revolutionary product made using a range of materials consisting exclusively of fungal mycelium. As opposed to traditional animal leather, bio-based leather can be grown in rather short timeframes, with a limited amount of resources and its production process is not wasteful.

MOGU, an Italian start-up, developed products made with agricultural vegetable by-products colonised by fungi.

MycoTEX creates sustainable fabric from mycelium, the roots of mushrooms.

Native Shoes produces the Plant Shoes, from the natural latex outsoles derived from the virgin milk of a hevea tree to the eucalyptus pulp base used for its upper, the shoe boasts an incredibly low environmental impact.

Thousand Fell, a US-based sustainable trainer brand launched recyclable, bio-based, vegan shoes, made of 12 sustainably-sourced materials, including aloe vera, coconut, sugar cane and recycled water bottles.

Allbirds uses sustainable materials like Merino wool, eucalyptus trees, and sugarcane to make their shoes and socks. Fashion pioneers Stella McCartney has become the first fashion designer to launch faux-fur made using plant-based ingredient, realized in collaboration with DuPont Biomaterials.

Green Nettle Textile grows nettles to create a sustainable linen-fabric and opportunities for farmers in Kenya to boost their livelihoods.

Le Qara produces vegan biodegradable leather for the fashion industry. It uses microorganisms to produce the leather. According to the company, the residues from its production process can be used as a liquid compost, “making it a process that generates no waste”.

Vivobarefoot has launched a new bio-based shoe with more than 30% renewable plant-based materials, including bio-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) from yellow dent field corn, natural rubber and harvested algae called bloom.

Buffy has launched bedding made from eucalyptus, reducing its ecological footprint while also making it suitable for vegans.

Timberland increases use of renewable materials in its shoes (e.g. castor bean oils used in outsole compounds, hemp and bamboo).

Palmleather is made by dipping the dry and brittle leave from the Arecae Betel Nut into a biological softening solution.

Algalife develops innovative natural and healthy pigments and fibres, from the the algae.

Maeko, creates high quality natural fabrics with a controlled supply chain. The hemp, nettle, soy, crabyon, bamboo, linen, organic cotton, Yak and certified wool yarns are processed by expert technicians in a historic weaving mill in the province of Turin (Italy).

The Agraloop™ transforms food crop waste into valuable fiber, yarn, and textile products for the fashion industry.