Taking sustainable fiber innovation to the next stage, Fashion for Good aligned with next-generation fiber firms, and C&A and material sciences company Recover are joining forces to advance recycled cotton usage.
Fashion for Good has launched the Untapped Agricultural Waste Project to validate and scale technologies that can successfully transform agricultural waste into sustainable textile fibers.
With catalytic funding provided by the Laudes Foundation, Fashion for Good partners Adidas, Bestseller, Vivobarefoot and Birla Cellulose, and six innovators, the consortium project will assess the technical feasibility of natural fibers created by the selected innovators using agricultural waste such as rice husks, hemp, wheat straw, banana and pineapple.
Fashion for Good noted that agricultural waste poses significant challenges for farmers in South and Southeast Asia and in many cases the waste is not repurposed and is often burned–up to 92 million tons of agricultural waste is burned annually in India alone, which in 2017 resulted in approximately 149 million tons of CO2. At the same time, the extraction and processing of virgin, conventional fibers such as cotton and polyester accounts for up to 39 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the textile supply chain, according to Fashion for Good’s recent report “Unlocking the Trillion-Dollar Fashion Decarbonisation Opportunity.”
The report charted a funding and solution driven trajectory for the industry to meet its net-zero ambition. Raw material innovation is essential to reducing these emissions and the next generation of materials are key if the industry is to decarbonize its supply chain.
The 18-month Untapped Agricultural Waste Project also leverages findings from Fashion for Good’s 2021 report, “Spinning Future Threads” authored by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the World Resources Institute India and Wageningen University and Research. The report maps agricultural waste in eight countries across South and Southeast Asia, identifying the untapped opportunities in agricultural waste streams, including rice husks, wheat straw, banana and pineapple production, which are the focus of this project.
The six fiber innovators–AltMat, Bananatex, Chlorohemp, Agraloop by Circular Systems, HempTex India and 9Fiber–will be further developing a variety of different natural fibers and fiber blends with a focus on trialing the highest percentage of agricultural waste, while also achieving the necessary performance requirements.
Birla Cellulose will work closely with the innovators, providing expertise to develop and prepare their new materials for wider adoption in the fashion supply chain, with the participating project brand partners supporting the testing and eventual scaling of these fibers.
“Use of unutilized agricultural waste based fibers in apparel applications is an excellent initiative that can alleviate the pressure on virgin resources and help reduce GHG emissions in the fashion industry supply chain,” Kalyan Ram, chief operating officer at Birla Cellulose, said. “This repurposing agricultural waste is aligned with Birla Cellulose’s goals of growing the next generation circular fibers to 100,000 tons per year by 2024.”
This first phase of the project concludes in December. To further drive supply chain adoption and move beyond lab scale, the next phase of the project will pilot the agri-waste fibers from selected innovators in collaboration with partner brands and supply chain players in commercial facilities to produce larger quantities. This phase ultimately aims to further enable brand offtake agreements and financing to facilitate scaling.
“This ambitious project explores a new source of feedstocks for the fashion industry that, if scaled, will help drive both the agriculture and textile industry toward net-zero,” Katrin Ley, managing director of Fashion for Good, said. ‘We see great potential for these various agriculture waste streams that would otherwise have few secondary uses. By applying innovative technologies to develop natural fibers, we can diminish the pressure on existing natural fibers and shift away from unsustainable materials and sources.”
C&A x Recover
European retailer C&A and material sciences company Recover are joining forces in a new strategic four-year partnership to bring high-quality recycled cotton to everyday apparel.
The two companies’ strong commitment to circularity will be visible this spring with the first collection made with Recover fiber due to hit stores in April with C&’s Clockhouse range. The partnership is meant to drive change to place recycled cotton as the core ingredient of a more sustainable fashion industry using Recover as the main cotton source.
Recover will integrate its fiber into C&A’s supply chain structure, as well as provide tech support to help the spinners and weavers optimize the yarns and fabrics. With C&A, which has about 1,400 stores in 18 European countries, the company can help drive meaningful change in the industry.
The partnership with Recover signals how C&A, which recently opened its Factory for Innovation in Textiles in Monchengladbach, Germany, is making serious sustainability commitments and accelerates its positive momentum in pursuit of its 2028 global sustainability strategy.
“More sustainable fashion must not be a niche product,” said Aleix Busquets Gonzalez, director of global sustainability at C&A. “Our collaboration with Recover is a milestone on our way toward a more sustainable future characterized by quality fashion available at affordable prices.”
Together, the partners aim to develop a strong and scalable circularity ecosystem in Europe, with a better future based on post-consumer materials.
“In alignment with our act-as-one philosophy, we are delighted to bring Recover’s expertise and tech support to our partnership with C&A through the integration of our fiber within their supply chain,” said Alejandro Raña, chief business development officer at Recover, said. “By combining a long-term commitment with high production volumes, we are ensuring a real lasting impact on the industry.”