The full life-cycle impact of a textile goes beyond the production process. With this in mind, startup OceanSafe is taking a circular rather than linear approach to fabric production by creating 100 percent biodegradable materials.
In 2013, OceanSafe founder Manuel Schweizer began to investigate the creation of fabrics that are part of the biological cycle. The home-textile veteran wanted to get away from the use of polyester and other synthetics that leach microplastics into the water supply each time they are laundered. Smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter, these fragments make their way into the oceans, where they are ingested by fish before working their way up the food chain to humans.
Schweizer also sought to eliminate other harmful additives that could be released in the wash and pollute waters. One wash cycle can contain millions of microfibers, making the case for ensuring these byproducts are harmless.
“Our brand represents a new age of textile production,” said Schweizer in a quote from OceanSafe’s marketing. “If you don’t put any pollutants in, they’ll never get out.”
Leveraging decades of experience in the business, Schweizer acquired a medium-sized textile company in Germany to serve as the basis for OceanSafe. Thinking ahead toward further sustainability in its operations, OceanSafe aims to use 100 percent renewable energy in the production of its textiles.
Along with creating clean textiles, OceanSafe is considering the end of life of these products. The brand has received Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold designation in recognition of its sustainable materials made for the circular economy.
Across all of its lines, materials are 100 percent biodegradable. OceanSafe also collects used products back from consumers, tackling the issue of what happens to textiles at the end of their life. Using an industrial composting process on these materials, OceanSafe extracts nutrients that are then used as the basis for new products.
Currently, OceanSafe’s line includes home textiles in cotton, linen, hemp and synthetic materials, as well as accessories such as buttons, hooks and curtain riders. Products range from bedding to pillows, curtains and towels. Among its range are what it says are the first bed linens and towels to receive Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold approval.
While OceanSafe’s distribution is currently centered around home stores in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, the company expects to extend its badge to other textile categories in the future.
“We are the future,” said Schweizer in a statement, “because our thinking and actions are commercially sound, because we develop and produce safe products for the contemporary mainstream, which is characterized by unfettered consumption.”
Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
See more of our Sustaining Voices honorees and their stories, here.