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On the catwalk: clothes made from agricultural waste

Published on
August 16, 2021

What agricultural residues can we use as fibres for the fashion industry? It turns out there are quite a few. For example, rice straw or banana stems can soon be found in clothing. By using these raw materials, the textile industry can become more sustainable.

The textile industry needs more sustainable and renewable raw materials to reduce its current, negative impact on the climate
Paulien Harmsen, Wageningen University & Research

60% of all clothing made from fossil fuels

Today, 60% of all clothing is still made from fibres derived from fossil fuels. That needs to change. The Laudes Foundation asked Wageningen University & Research (together with the Institute for Sustainable Communities and the World Resources Institute) to research an alternative.

They looked at whether there are useful residual streams (waste) in agriculture in South and Southeast Asia that can be used to produce natural fibres. They also looked at the technology needed to do this.

The research shows that there are definitely possibilities. For example, waste streams from rice, maize, bananas, pineapples and sugar cane can be used as raw materials for clothing fibres.

This research provides a promising glimpse into the first steps towards sustainable textiles
Paulien Harmsen, Wageningen University & Research

So, producing fibres from agricultural waste is possible, but where to start?

The key is to work together. In the research report “Spinning Future Threads”, the researchers have therefore included a roadmap for cooperation and innovation in the fashion and food industries.