Don’t throw it out — throw it on. The Agraloop Bio-Refinery, a new technology developed by materials science company Circular Systems S.P.C., is capable of turning food waste such as banana peels, pineapple leaves and hemp stalks into natural fiber that can be woven into clothing. “We want to enable food crops to become our primary fibers,” Circular Systems CEO and co-founder Isaac Nichelson told Fast Company. The waste materials mentioned, plus sugar cane and flax stalk, could generate up to 250 million tons of fiber each year if processed through the Agraloop, meeting the global demand for fiber two and a half times over. Farmers are encouraged to acquire their own Agraloop systems, so that they may earn extra income from creating natural, sustainable fiber from materials they would otherwise compost.
While the Agraloop is a novel technology, its values are aligned with the clothing industry’s past. In 1960, 97 percent of the fibers used to produce clothing came from natural sources. Today, only 35 percent is naturally sourced. The return to natural form for the fashion industry is desperately needed in a moment where many acknowledge the need for reform within the industry, from its labor practices to its environmental impact.
“Right now, it’s so extractive and so destructive, and we’re looking at these resources becoming more and more finite as the population grows,” Nichelson said. “If there’s not collective and very swift action, it’s going to be catastrophic for the industry from an economic standpoint.” Enter the Agraloop. “[It’s a] regenerative system that uses plant-based chemistry and plant-based energy to upgrade the fibres whilst enriching the local communities and creating a new economic system,” Nichelson explained. Ultimately, a move towards sustainability will be beneficial for both the environment and those seeking to make a profit. Nichelson said, “All of our industries need to be retrofitted for real sustainability and become regenerative by nature, and it will be better for business.”