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Banana and Pineapple Fabrics

According to a report from Cambridge University, approximately 50,000  tons of dye are discharged into global water systems from textile industries.

Turning Food into Wearables

I’m sure many of us have ever dreamed of transforming our favourite food into something we could wear. With pop stars like Katy Perry & Lady Ga Ga rocking in their candy and meat made dresses, the fantasy of wearing our favourite food isn’t all that farfetched anymore.

What is the importance of fabrics made from natural sources?

Banana and pineapple fibres are gaining in reputation in the international textiles market, although they have been used by local craftsmen for centuries.

In today’s world where resources are depleting at an accelerated pace, there is a growing awareness on sustainably conserving our natural resources. Using byproducts of banana and pineapple help us to reduce environmental damage without sacrificing our fashion statements!

Benefits of the banana and pineapple textiles

1,Products of an existing commercial process

The first and most considerable environmental benefit of these fabrics is that they are by-products of a pre-existing commercial process: that of food production. This means that the land required to produce a yield of fibre is not competing with that needed to grow food, and that the carbon and water footprints of both processes can effectively be shared

2.They resources that would otherwise be wasted

What’s more, the processing of the plant fibres to make the fabric occurs after the harvesting of the fruit, using a ‘waste material’ of the food production process which would otherwise have been disposed of. This means that the textile making process is actually diverting waste from landfill, further reducing its carbon footprint as it prevents this organic material from degrading anaerobically (without the presence of oxygen) and producing methane gas.

3.Their properties as textiles emulate established and functional textiles

The fibres of the stems of the banana plant can be spun to create a textile with similar properties to hemp and bamboo. With nearly 1 billion tonnes of banana stems wasted in the food production business each year, there is plenty of raw material available to turn into product. On average, it takes 37kg of stems to make 1kg of fibre so hypothetically, if all waste banana stems could be utilized, that would produce 2.7 million tonnes of fibre.

4. Their processes are environmentally friendly

Production of fabric from pineapple leaves has been commercialised with the creation of the fibre Piñatex® by the company Ananas Anam. To make Piñatex® the pineapple leaf fibres are cut up and layered to make a non-woven mesh material with similar properties to felt or leather.

As well as having a low-carbon growing process, when compared to using leather from animal hides, Piñatex® also creates less waste. The sheets are produced in regular shaped rolls as opposed to the irregular shape of hides. This results in wastage between fibre and product of only 5%, rather than up to 25% for leather.

5. Their processes are ethical

Eco-textile company Offset Warehouse sells banana fabrics produced by a Nepalese NGO that ensures fair pay and working conditions for their workers, but there are a few companies managing to successfully scale up production.

If they have existed for years why aren’t we using them?

The challenge of up-scaling both of these food industry by-product fabrics is in creating robust supply chains from small-scale producer to manufacturer. Currently, both banana and pineapple fibres are in very early stages of the commercialisation process. With the advancement of circular economy production, we could safely say that the adoption for innovating food by waste into functional wearables is here to stay!

Our most important takeaway- these fibres have not one but a triple whammy of benefits: they taste good, look good & it’s great for the environment!

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