UN Environment estimates the fashion industry produces 20 percent of the global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions. On average, consumers throw away 60 percent of their clothes in the first year. In 2020 an estimated 18.6 million tonnes of clothing will end up in a landfill.
However, the future of fashion is changing with new designers either recycling old materials or using plant-based fibers.
The fashion industry is becoming more sustainable by producing clothes in an environmentally friendly manner, making them reusable and recyclable wherever possible.
Fashion designers are now replacing cotton with other alternatives like plant waste or agro residue. Plants like, banana, pineapple, hemp, jute, lotus, bamboo, eucalyptus, flax, cork, sugarcane, etc are the preferable option. Once the edible part is harvested, the residue is converted into textile fibres.
The residue contains biopolymers like cellulose, lignin, pectin, etc which is otherwise useless and is generally burnt which leads to air pollution or landfills.
Here are the most popular natural fibers
The first step in the weaving process is the creation of yarn. The yarn is created from Banana fibers which are extracted from Banana stems. The process involves in the extraction of banana fibers is intensive and time-consuming.
Lotus silk is one of the rarest fabrics in the world, produced only on a small scale across Cambodia, Myanmar, and, more recently, Vietnam.
Extracting enough lotus silk for one scarf can take two months or more than that. The final product of Lotus silk can cost 10 times as much as regular silk.
Once the Lotus stem is selected and picked by hand, the silk inside of the flower can be extracted. One stem contains a minuscule amount of thin, sticky fibers, which must be rolled together and dried. The threads need to be processed within 24 hours while stems fiber are wet.
The term “bamboo fabric” widely refers to a number of different textiles that are made from the bamboo plant.
There are two methods of extracting fabric from the bamboo plant. The first is mechanical that involves crushing the plants into a mush, using natural enzymes to break it down, and then combing out the fibers and spinning them into a yarn. The fabric produced this way resembles linen and is called bamboo linen.
The second method is chemical where plants are cooked in several chemical solvents such and sodium hydroxide (lye) and carbon disulfide.
These natural fibers are proven to be a key part of the solution to improve the fashion industry and the environment. However, consumers too will need to change their behavior by recycling their clothes and opting for natural fibers to lessen the impact that the fashion industry is having on our planet.