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01 September 2021

Food Waste to Fashion

Written by Published in Fashion

Reduce, reuse, recycle. This catchy three-word phrase has become the slogan of environmental and sustainable initiatives. While this motto may remind you to use a reusable water bottle, carpool with a friend, or recycle your plastic waste, it can be applied in many other ways! Whether it’s changing your eating habits or your clothing purchases, there are so many ways we can eliminate waste from our landfills.

One of the main ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is by reducing our amount of food waste. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, wasted food is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If these emissions were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet!

While we can reduce our food waste at an individual level, companies and industry leaders across the globe are finding new, creative ways to solve this environmental issue. In the past couple of years, innovative designers in the fashion industry have found unique ways to reduce the amount of food waste in our environment.

Known for its large environmental and social cost, the fashion industry does not have a stellar reputation regarding corporate social responsibility. With the high demand for new, fashionable, and affordable pieces, fast fashion has become a popular trend over the past couple of decades.

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According to a report by McKinsey & Company, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, and are only keeping those clothes for half as long. This has contributed to the fashion industry’s production of carbon emissions, accounting for 10% of all emissions. Additionally, beyond the damage done to water sources as it pollutes rivers and streams, more than 85% of all textiles produced go directly to landfill each year.

Considering these statistics, and the ramifications they have on our environment, designers are looking for new solutions.

Recent research on textile production has found that food waste such as rice, wheat, and other grain straws, along with banana stems, sugarcane ‘trash’, and pineapple leaves are great alternatives to common textiles.

Typically deposited in a landfill, where they are incinerated, these leftover food resources have a short life cycle. By reusing them, we become less reliant on unsustainable textiles, such as conventional cotton, lessening the number of single-use products found in our ecosystem. Further, we reduce the carbon emissions contributed globally by food waste and the fashion industry.

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Ananas Anam, an English textile company, is a pioneer in food waste fashion. Known for producing Piñatex, a vegan leather made from pineapple leaf fibre, Piñatex has become one of the most popular sustainable materials on the market. Since its creation in the 1990s, it has reached the peak of the fashion industry, featured in iconic events such as London Fashion Week and the 2017 Met Gala. Additionally, 1000 brands worldwide including, Hugo Boss and H&M, use Piñatex.

Another interesting example is the work done by QMilk. This European-based company found a way to recycle a potent form of food waste: expired milk. Separating the vitamins, minerals, and proteins found in expired milk, QMilk utilizes these nutrients to create new textiles and fibres.

QMilk’s production has zero waste, along with lower water and energy consumption compared to common textiles. Currently, its products are used in the fashion, cosmetic, and organic plastic industries.

While I don’t recommend experimenting with expired milk at home, it’s incredible to see the innovative ways our food scraps are repurposed in the fashion industry. As new sustainable solutions become more popular, I hope to see innovative creations in the fashion industry and beyond. After all, to protect our shared planet, we must reduce, reuse, and recycle our waste; even our food waste.

Read more of Mandy's articles in Sublime Magazine.

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