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AMSTERDAM – Fashion for Good has launched a new project which aims to test technologies that can turn agricultural waste into textile fibres. Project partners include Adidas, Bestseller, Vivobarefoot and Birla Cellulose, as well as six innovators. The consortium will assess the technical feasibility of natural fibres using agricultural waste such as rice husks, hemp, wheat straw, banana and pineapple.

The six fibre innovators are AltMat, Bananatex, Chlorohemp, Agraloop by Circular Systems, HempTex India and 9Fiber. Indian viscose giant Birla Cellulose will work closely with the innovators providing expertise to develop and prepare their new materials for wider adoption in the fashion supply chain, with the participating project brand partners supporting the testing and eventual scaling of these fibres.

The project draws on findings from a report last year by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the World Resources Institute India and Wageningen University and Research. The study claimed there are enough usable agricultural residue streams from farming in South and Southeast Asia for the production of natural fibre textiles at scale. Researchers found that large quantities of agricultural residues are available in key textile sourcing hubs such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The study looked at issues such as residue volume production per year, high cellulose or fibre content and suitability for use in textiles.

Overall, they found rice straw offers the largest potential for textile production, followed by Empty Fruit Bunches (EFBs) from oil palm.

This first phase of the new project concludes in December 2022. To further drive supply chain adoption and move beyond lab scale, the next phase of the project will pilot the agri-waste fibres from selected innovators in collaboration with partner brands and supply chain players in commercial facilities to produce larger quantities. This next phase ultimately aims to further enable brand offtake agreements and financing to facilitate scaling.

Katrin Ley, managing director, Fashion for Good, said: “This ambitious project explores a new source of feedstocks for the fashion industry that, if scaled, will help drive both the agriculture and textile industry towards net-zero. We see great potential for these various agriculture waste streams that would otherwise have few secondary uses. By applying innovative technologies to develop natural fibres, we can diminish the pressure on existing natural fibres and shift away from unsustainable materials and sources.”

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