Fashion for Good has launched the ‘Untapped Agricultural Waste Project’ to validate and scale technologies that can successfully transform agricultural waste into sustainable textile fibres. The funds have been provided by Laudes Foundation, Fashion for Good partners adidas, BESTSELLER, Vivobarefoot and Birla Cellulose, and six innovators. The project will assess the technical feasibility of natural fibres created by the selected innovators using agricultural waste such as rice husk, hemp, wheat straw, banana and pineapple.
A KEY AREA FOR DECARBONISATION
Agricultural waste poses significant challenges for farmers in South and Southeast Asia. Many times the waste is not repurposed but burned, like it happens in states surrounding New Delhi which leads to huge air pollution. Up to 92 million tonnes of agricultural waste is burned annually in India alone, which in 2017 resulted in approximately 149 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Also, the extraction and processing of virgin, conventional fibres such as cotton and polyester accounts for up to 39 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in the textile supply chain – this was earlier highlighted in Fashion for Good’s report Unlocking the Trillion-Dollar Fashion Decarbonisation Opportunity. Raw Material innovation is essential to reducing these emissions, and the next generation of materials are key if the industry is to decarbonise its supply chain.
THE UNTAPPED POTENTIAL OF AGRICULTURAL WASTE
The 18-month ‘Untapped Agricultural Waste Project’ brings together Fashion for Good partners adidas, BESTSELLER, Vivobarefoot and its supply chain partner Birla Cellulose as well as six innovators to explore innovations that can repurpose agricultural waste into viable new natural fibre blends. These fibre blends offer alternatives to conventional fibres and have the potential to displace virgin fibres derived from unsustainable materials such as oil.
The six fibre innovators, AltMat, Bananatex, Chlorohemp, Agraloop by Circular Systems, HempTex India and 9Fiber, will further develop a variety of different natural fibres and fibre blends with a focus on trialling the highest percentage of agricultural waste, while also achieving the necessary performance requirements. 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.
TOWARDS FURTHER IMPACT
This first phase of the project concludes in December 2022. The next phase 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 off take agreements and financing to facilitate scaling.