Dec 27, 2021
by Fiona McVitie
Biomimicry Awarded Multi-Million Dollar Grant to Pilot Decomposition of Textile Waste
by Fiona McVitie
Dec 27, 2021

The Biomimicry Institute, a non-profit organization driving nature-based innovations to solve humanity’s biggest challenges, has been awarded €2.5 million EUR in funding to tackle the issue of waste in fashion.

Building on from the Institute’s “The Nature of Fashion” report from 2020, the two-year “Design for Decomposition” initiative aims to demonstrate affordable and scalable new pathways for the estimated 92 million tonnes of fashion waste discarded annually worldwide.

Key partners of the “Design for Decomposition” initiative include the Laudes Foundation, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Metabolic Institute, The OR Foundation, and Celery Design. Together, the initiative will pilot novel technologies in Accra, Ghana, which currently receives about 15 million used garments each week, and also in one major European city (such as Berlin or Amsterdam) which has an existing waste management infrastructure.

Previous findings by the Institute identified decomposition as the missing link to a truly circular fashion industry. The industry currently produces over 100 billion garments per year, with 50% of these garments being discarded within a year. In addition, more than a third of all microplastic pollution is released from clothing, compromising people’s health and the environment. Waste, and the detrimental effects that come with it, therefore remains a key issue for the industry as consumers increasingly demand more sustainable practices.

The project plans to utilize the various known forms of natural decomposition and match these to hundreds of available decomposition technologies, converting fashion textile waste into new, biocompatible raw materials. This would allow fashion to operate as an ecosystem and establish a new textile economy.

“The end-of-life management of waste is a huge and complex problem that sits at the interface of the biosphere and the technosphere. We must find alternative pathways for handling the myriad of natural and synthetic materials embodied in the products we consume,” said Savanna Browne-Wilkinson of the Metabolic Institute.

The concept of using biocompatible materials in fashion is not new. Wool, Piñatex (pineapple leather), Lyocell (cellulose fiber) and mycelium (mushroom leather) are some of today’s existing alternatives to synthetic materials. These commercially ready materials and technologies spanning bacterial, enzymatic and anaerobic digestive processes will be considered by the initiative, with research focusing on affordability and scalability.

The Institute believes that Biocompatible fashion is possible today. By replacing petroleum-based materials with diverse fiber-crops and biosynthetics, reusing and recycling to improve efficiency, and scaling decomposition systems to return nutrients to the soil, the fashion industry can achieve circularity and ultimately reduce the amount of damage it causes to our environment.

Learn more about the initiative or get involved, here.

In other textile news, Ventile has developed a PFC-free water repellent treatment.

Photo: The Or Foundation