“We didn’t have to cut down any trees to create this sweater, and we have now demonstrated that our tree-free rayon fibre can be used in the same way as other commonly-used fibres to make clothing and textiles.”
Biomaterial technology firm Nanollose has created a garment produced from the company’s “tree-free” rayon fibre, which is sourced from sustainable coconut waste. According to the Australian company, the sweater is a "world first" and marks a “breakthrough” for any industry that is urgently seeking sustainable alternatives to clothing made from traditional rayon and cotton, both of which cause significant environmental issues.
Nanollose managing director Alfie Germano said: “We have successfully taken waste and created clothing, and we have done it following industrial protocol. Our fibre was spun into yarn and made into fabric, then manufactured into this garment using existing industrial equipment. It validates our entire process.”
According Nanollose, 150 million trees are cut down each year, then chipped and treated with hazardous chemicals to extract the raw material used to make viscose rayon fibres for clothing. By contrast, Nanollose’s “Nullarbor” fibre is made without harming a single tree.
“We didn’t have to cut down any trees to create this sweater, and we have now demonstrated that our tree-free rayon fibre can be used in the same way as other commonly-used fibres to make clothing and textiles, without the hefty environmental footprint,” said Nanollose managing director Alfie Germano.
The process begins in a facility where microbial bacteria naturally ferment liquid waste products from food stuffs - such as coconuts - into cellulose, a cotton-like raw material that is then transformed into the firm's Nullarbor fibre, Nanollose said in a statement.
According to the firm, its process to produce cellulose requires “very little land, water or energy and a production cycle of just 18 days, compared to the eight months seen in the cotton industry”.
“We believe that we are the only company producing tree-free rayon fibres from waste, and we have now reached a point where our technology is moving out of the laboratory and into the factory. Once we achieve this increased scale, manufacturers will have an alternative eco-friendly option available to them.”
As more and more headlines revealing the environmental impact of the textile industry emerge, there is an increasing urgency among consumers, brands, retailers and manufacturers to seek and cultivate alternative fibre resources.
“Progressive brands and companies are starting to facilitate this new shift by involving themselves deeper in the supply chain and searching for feasible, sustainable long-term alternatives. This is evident in the increasing number of enquiries we have received over the past six months.”
To ensure Nanollose can supply future partners with commercial qualities of fibre, the company is developing a supply chain within an ecosystem around waste from the Indonesian coconut industry, and aims to significantly increase fibre production over the next three to six months.