My special report on Tecnon OrbiChem’s Biomaterials newsletter this month is all about biofabrication focusing on the fashion industry. Companies that I’ve mentioned in this report include Modern Meadow, Bolt Threads, Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Mango Materials, Orange Fiber, among others.
The textiles industry, according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, relies mostly on non-renewable resources – 98 million tons/year – including crude oil to produce synthetic fibers, fertilizers to grow cotton, and chemicals to produce dye and finish fibers and textiles.
The textile industry has immense footprint extending far beyond the use of raw materials. In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production reportedly totaled 1.2bn tons of CO2 equivalent, more than that of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The textile production also discharges high volumes of water containing hazardous chemicals into the environment. Around 20% of industrial water pollution globally is attributable to the dyeing and treatment of textiles.
Coincidentally enough, I just saw this Ted Talk video below being promoted by the organizers of World Bio Markets conference, which will be held in March in Amsterdam. Just a disclosure, the Green Chemicals Blog is a media partner for this conference.
One of the featured speakers at the conference will be Natsai Audrey Chieza, a designer, and expert on synthetic biology in the fashion industry. She talked about the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor, which makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she’s using it to develop bold, color-fast fabric dye that cuts down on water waste and chemical runoff, compared with traditional dyes.
The textiles industry also has been identified as a major contributor to the issue of plastic entering the ocean. It has been estimated that around half a million tons of plastic microfibers shed during the washing of plastic-based textiles such as polyester, nylon, or acrylic ending up in the ocean annually. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the growth in the material volume of textiles would see an increasing amount of non-renewable inputs, up to 300m tons/year by 2050. On current trend, the volume of plastic microfibers entering the ocean between 2015 and 2050 could accumulate to an excess of 22m tons, about two-thirds of the plastic-based fibers currently used to produce garments annually.
Doris de Guzman