From living organisms to sustainable textiles: moving towards eco-friendly textiles

The textile industry is the world’s oldest branch of consumer goods production. It is a diverse and heterogeneous sector where natural and chemical fibers (e.g., cotton, wool, oil) are converted to the latest consumer goods including clothing, electronic products, and industrial textiles.

In the past, the textile industry focused only on productivity, but now the industry is leaning towards eco-friendly sustainable textile production. That is why efforts are being made to produce sustainable textiles from living organisms. Through this, the production of biodegradable textiles from living organisms has opened the door to a possibility.

 

Living Organisms and Biodegradable Textiles:

If the textiles we use don’t rot after we dispose of them, they make the landfill problem worse. Fashion experts have started the production of biodegradable textiles to reduce this high amount of waste.

‘Biodegradable’ is a term that is often used when talking about the textile industry from the angle of environmental awareness. If you want to create environmentally conscious fabrics and fashions, you need to have adequate knowledge about biodegradable fabrics, their effects, and why they are environmentally friendly.

The term ‘biodegradable’ refers to the ability of a substance to decompose naturally through living organisms. Living organisms have the ability to move and reproduce. There are different types of living organisms such as plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, algae, protoctists, etc.

 

Biodegradable fabric:

These are the fabrics that slowly decompose naturally. When a piece of clothing is out of the use or out of fashion, it is often thrown away as rubbish. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2014, nine percent of all municipal solid waste generated in the United States was cloth.

Considering this, a small but growing group of reformers has turned to the genius of nature in an effort to keep the garment industry free from pollution, and the source is: they are making biodegradable textiles from living organisms, making eco-friendly materials in laboratories and some without the need for factory assembly. Is producing complete items.

Textiles can be biodegradable with the help of living organisms like living bacteria, algae, fungi, etc. For example, Theanine Schiro’s, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Science at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, and a team of her students created algae-based fabrics as well as Bamboo fabric that are biodegradable faster than cotton.

 

Here are some ways to make sustainable textiles from living organisms

 

As sustainability becomes a criterion of current fashion, some researchers are working to make the living organism bio-engineered to fit into future clothing. Textile production is thought to be possible by bio-engineered processing of living bacteria, fungi, animal cells, etc., and if discarded after use, this type of textile will gradually break down into nontoxic substances and merge into the environment. This has resulted in some new innovations:

 

Production of spider silk through or with bacteria:

 

Spider silk or silk is known as a strong flexible and light material. However, it is not possible to cultivate spiders according to artistic criteria. To overcome this problem, A.M. Silk, a German company, started using genetically engineered bacteria. In this method, the bacteria inside the fermentation bioreactor produce spider silk proteins which are later converted into fibers, a brand-new material with unique properties.

It is a bio fabricated material through which both performance and durability can be met.

 

Covering the fabric body with algae:

 

The chemicals used to make and dye fabrics are generally toxic, harmful, and responsible for the deaths of thousands of workers. Such chemicals usually cause rashes on the wearer’s body. Seaweed is being used to solve this problem. The German-Israeli firm Algi-Live uses algae to produce the fiber, and it is dyed using algae-derived dyes.

Fabrics made with this type of fiber are not only made in an environmentally friendly way but are also comfortable for the wearer’s skin. A team from the Fashion Institute of Technology has developed yarn-like fibers from Algi. These strong and flexible fibers have the potential to create marketable bioengineered textiles. Also, fibers are naturally fire-resistant and biodegradable faster than cotton.

 

Student Fabric Production:

Aniela Hoitink, the founder of the Dutch firm NEFFA, said: “Factories are being shut down because of environmental problems. Plastic pollution is a big problem and there is very little land where we can grow cotton instead of food.

 

With this in mind, Whiting has created fabric from mycelium – which is the root of the mushroom. The fungi are produced on discs and are capable of making custom garments from sticks together without any seams.

 

Dyeing of fabric by bacteria:

The dyeing industry has a huge environmental impact on water use and water pollution. Fable Future, a UK firm, has developed an alternative dyeing method where dyeing of fabrics is possible through gauze using streptomyces coli-colored bacteria.

 

The use of Meditech and the Living Organism and a new proposal:

 

The combination of textile technology and medical science is known as Meditech or Medical Textile. The medical sector has a long tradition of using textiles. Textile materials have gained tremendous popularity among the long list of bandages and wound dressings. The production of new fibers, yarns, and fabrics continues to enrich Meditech technology. The use of living organisms in the Meditech sector could open up new possibilities.

Silk fabric is widely used in the medical sector. Silk has been used for various medical operations such as sewing, surgical mesh, and fabric for its biological suitability and biodegradation properties. But for operations such as wound healing, tissue engineering, the use of silk for these applications is in the trial stage. At present, the use of silk from spiders has gained wide popularity.

Research is needed on whether the use of this type of silk is possible in the medical sector as well, which could play a major role in the expansion of the textile industry.

Microbial enzymes are widely used in the medical sector. Microbial enzymes play an important role in Diagnosis Treatment, Biochemical investigation, and monitoring of various deadly diseases.

 

Textiles used in the medical sector should be such that it does not cause human inconvenience. Chemicals used for conventional textile dyeing can often cause damage. So the textile dyed by the living organism has created a huge potential in this case.

For example, Fabric dyeing through bacteria is an alternative method of chemical dyeing. It is a sustainable solution that is a fundamental and innovative contribution to the therapies of conventional physics. Thus, if it is possible to produce textiles using the sources of environmental biotechnology, they may become suitable for use in the medical sector. There is currently a need for extensive research on this topic.

There is still a lot of research work to be done to make the production of sustainable textiles from the living organism into the mainstream of the fashion industry. The big challenge in this type of production is to transform prototype biological processes into industrial-scale production that will be the key to making these products widely available and affordable. Textile production from the living organism will bring a unique revolution in the future to keep the fashion industry clean, healthy, and sustainable.

 

References

  1. World Most Sustainable Textile Fibers
  2. https://geneticliteracyproject.org
  3. HOLLAND, C., NUMATA, K., RNJAK‐KOVACINA, J. & SEIB, F. P. 2019. The biomedical use of silk: past, present, future. Advanced healthcare materials, 8, 1800465.
  4. LELLIS, B., FÁVARO-POLONIO, C. Z., PAMPHILE, J. A. & POLONIO, J. C. 2019. Effects of textile dyes on health and the environment and bioremediation potential of living organisms. Biotechnology Research and Innovation, 3, 275-290.
  5. scientificamerican.com
  6. fabricoftheworld.com
  7. springwise.com

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