Globally, we waste about 1.3 billion tons of food, accounting for billions of dollars. Textile waste is an equally daunting issue. In the U.S. alone, we toss out about 15 billion pounds of textiles each year, the equivalent of about 70 pounds per person. That’s about the same as 200 t-shirts.
Waste is an issue that needs to be dealt with in both industries. One way is to deal directly with the waste, reusing instead of throwing away. Some fashion brands, like Patagonia, offer recycling programs, and the City of Raleigh recently launched a new program which will bring curbside textile recycling to residents.
Another way that designers are bridging the issue of waste is actually found at the intersection of food and fashion: using food and agricultural waste to create new materials.
“We call it the fibre crisis,” Isaac Nichelson of Circular Systems, a company focused on creating fibers from agricultural waste, told The Guardian. “Our whole industry is based on either the synthetics industry – so petrochemicals – or a [genetically modified] cotton monopoly. Both are extremely destructive. Thankfully the industry is finally waking up to this.”
Innovative designers are looking for new, renewable resources for fiber, like Italian-based company Orange Fiber. The company makes yarn from orange peels that are a byproduct of making juice. The yarn was recently used in a collection by Salvatore Ferragamo, the first fashion house to employ Orange Fiber yarns.
The production of pineapples is another area where waste is becoming a resource. Piñatex uses the fiber of pineapple leaves and turns it into a soft, yet flexible material, which can be used as an alternative to PVC and leather.
In Germany, milk has become a textile resource, as is the case with Germany’s QMilk, who works witt the dairy industry to use milk that can’t be sold for consumption. About 2 million tons of this milk goes to waste in Germany alone, and with its technology, QMilk is turning it into natural fibers. Coffee grounds are being used for their anti-odor capabilities in performance apparel, and even the culture that’s used to make kombucha is being used as a potential for new textiles.
As a consumer, some of these technologies may not be available to you, but the best place to start dealing with waste is at home. Whether it’s food waste or textile waste, thinking about how your own eating, cooking and consumption habits can be changed to reduce your own amount of waste is a great place to start.
Images: Orange Fiber, Piñatex