Cotton accounts for one third of fiber consumption in the textile industry, according to a 2013 global apparel fiber consumption report. However, the crop’s production requires intense labor and uses plenty of pesticides and fresh water and now fibers made from fruit are making their way into textiles and fashion.
And the fibers could potentially compete with cotton, according to a recent article in The Guardian.
One material is made from banana plant stems. About one billion tons of banana plant stems are wasted every year, but research indicates it would only take 37 kilograms (82 pounds) of stems to produce one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fabric. In 2012, The Philippine Textile Research Institute also reported that banana plantations in the country could generate more than 300,000 tons of fiber.
Eco-textile company Offset Warehouse has developed its own banana fabrics, the Textured Black and White Banana and the Thick Basket Weave Banana. Both of these fabrics are hand-woven by a registered non-governmental organization in Nepal, this means that the workers are operating in safe conditions and are being paid fairly.
The fabric is said to be nearly carbon neutral and has a soft texture that has been equated to hemp and bamboo. Offset Warehouse’s founder, Charlie Ross says the material is ideal for jackets, skirts and trousers.
Another material is made using pineapple leaves. Carmen Hijosa, the founder of Ananas Anam, a company that works to develop new textiles using natural fibers, developed a sustainable leather alternative using pineapple leaves called Pinatex after becoming frustrated by the chemicals used in the leather tanning process, the Guardian reported.
The material also benefits farmers, as the process used to make Pinatex creates biomass, which can be converted into a fertilizer to be used in the next pineapple harvest. The fiber is also biodegradable. The company is currently working toward a way to ensure the coating is sustainable and nontoxic.
However, Pinatex, which has a similar appearance to canvas, will not be available in stores for some time but initial prototypes show that, similar to leather, it can be used to manufacture goods like shoes and handbags. At 18 pounds ($26) per meter, it would be roughly 40 percent cheaper than high quality leather, says the Guardian.
Coconut husks can also be used in fibers; one thousand coconuts can produce 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of fiber and are usually harvested every 30-45 days.
Cocona, a type of textile operating under the name 37.5 Technology, is made from coconuts shells and volcanic materials. According to 3.75 Technology, the material is ideal for sportswear.
Companies like Under Armor and Adidas are already using Cocona in their products. Under Armor uses the fabric in its Combine line which includes Training Shorts, Training Woven Track Jacket and Training 1/2 Zip Hooded Warm-Up Jacket while, Adidas uses it in its Terrex Cocona Fleece Jacket.
Husk fibers can also be used as an organic fertilizer, helping to improve soil quality, reduce pesticides and ensure that fashion supply chains that use coconuts are sustainable.