As recently as 1960, 97% of the fibres we used in garments and materials were naturally derived. Today, it’s only around 35%.
Meanwhile, in the banana industry alone, every year 270 million tons of waste — from peels to stalks — are often burned or left to rot. Crop burning pollutes the air while rotting releases methane into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. This caught the attention of Isaac Nichelson, a three-decade veteran of the sustainable fashion industry.
Nicholson founded Circular Systems which developed a technology called Agraloop. It manages to turn food waste, including banana stalks, sugar cane, hemp stalks or even pineapple leaves, into affordable natural fibres.
Nichelson suggests that food crops can become our primary source of fibres. The company projects that it will be able to create 250M tons of natural fibre annually while reducing crop burn pollution and methane emissions and could meet 2.5 times the current global demand for fibre. The H&M Foundation has awarded Circular Systems a $350,000 Global Change Award grant to scale up its operations. There is also talk of developing a partnership with Levi’s.
The Agraloop Bio-Refinery can be owned and operated by the same farmers and producers who grow and harvest the crops. The system can create additional revenue for growers, and put their excess waste to use.
The next time you’re be buying textiles for your restaurant, perhaps they’ll be made from the byproducts of the food you’re serving. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to close the loop and help reduce food waste all in one?