The next generation of textiles will take a step beyond circularity—when they reach the end-of-life stage, they’ll actually be able to give back to the environment.
With its fully biodegradable textiles for bedding and towels, OceanSafe hopes to redefine the do-no-harm ethos the industry has adopted.
“For us, it’s not about being green, we certainly don’t have a green coating nor are we eco-romantics. We are the future,” the company, founded by Swiss textile expert Manuel Schweizer, says in its marketing. “We think and act with a focus on the commercial aspects and develop and produce for the contemporary mainstream market, in which people love to buy new products without having to worry. Our products are not only beautiful, they are the nutrients for the next generation.”
The startup, which had products on display at the latest Heimtextil tradeshow in Frankfurt, wanted to develop a fabric with “no bad ingredients” so that no bad ingredients—particularly microplastics—could end up in the world’s oceans upon laundering, consultant Katrina Weissenborn said.
“Our fabrics actually are full of nutrients that you can decompose and make something else out of it,” Weissenborn said, adding that using industrial composting methods, biogas becomes one such yield.
Moving beyond recycling, which has been a favored way for companies to further their sustainability profiles, OceanSafe said the key difference between its principles and recycling or upcycling, is that the textile’s entire life cycle is a focus starting from the product development stage. That means what happens once the textile is cast off becomes key in considering how to make it and which inputs will be part of the product.
As such, the company notes, “All OceanSafe products can be introduced into the biological cycle in full and are 100 percent biodegradable, including the accessories, from the yarn to the buttons. The textiles are processed to create finished products in certified sewing studios and also delivered in packaging which is 100 percent biodegradable.”
Because of its commitment to making a no-impact product, OceanSafe’s bedding currently only includes flat sheets because the company hasn’t yet been able to source a biodegradable rubber for fitted sheets. Labels in the products are stitched and nothing is printed because they haven’t figured how to make those steps biodegradable—but all of that is in progress, Weissenborn said.
“We are not greenwashing anything,” she added.
For now, OceanSafe products are made from three material groups: cotton, a biodegradable polyester replacement and a biodegradable acid-based, flame-retardant polymer. From these materials, the company makes what it claims is “the first and only bedding and towels to have achieved the Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold certificate.”
In company tests, bacteria begins to eat the OceanSafe textiles after they are buried underground for about six weeks, and their remnants serve to nourish the plants, according to Weissenborn. That doesn’t mean, however, that the textiles break down sooner that their traditional counterparts. Durability remains on par with standard textiles, provided the user washes according to recommendations on the label.
And for buyers, purchasing OceanSafe textiles comes with more than just product to stock shelves: it comes with a workshop designed to help them understand the production process and why the no-impact operation is so critical to the environment so they can generate consciousness with consciousness when it comes to sharing the message with consumers. Buyers can then return any excess or unused product to OceanSafe, which the company buys back at 10 percent of the price, and then turns into new raw materials to start the cycle again.
“To have a future for the next generation, we have to start to invent products that do not produce waste but that do produce materials that we can reuse in a sustainable way that is safe for our biological circle,” Weissenborn said.