What if we could make new textiles from your trash? Imagine wearing a dress which is made using the leftover coffee grounds from your morning coffee? This future may be closer than you think. The textile industry has been implementing new technologies and developing new fibres which are both innovative and better for the industry from a social and environmental sustainable point of view for some time now. Which should come as no surprise, considering the fashion industry is considered to be one of the most polluting industries in the world. Textile innovation is the direct link to the next step in ensuring the entire industry becomes more sustainable.
At the moment, the majority of the resources used by the textile and fashion industry, such as cotton and polyester, are in limited supply and the increasing demand for them is harming the planet. Take cotton for example. Cotton production currently accounts for approximately 2.5 percent of the world’s arable land according to WWF. But cotton farming accounts for 24 percent of the global sales of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides, most of which is directly released into the environment. This, in turn, has dire consequences on the health of the farmer who is exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis and also contaminates the water and soil of the surrounding communities. What’s more, cotton consumes a vast amount of water - between 6,000 and 10,000 litres of water are needed to grow a single kilo of cotton. This is why innovative textiles, such as fabrics made from coffee grounds, seaweed, pineapple leaves or recycled plastic bottles are so important as they are the foundation of the fashion industry greener future.
Making clothing out of recycled coffee grounds
In this new series, FashionUnited explores the sustainable alternatives and textile innovations which are currently being developed all over the world in order to raise awareness for the need of new, innovative and sustainable materials in the fashion industry. And S.Café is a prime example one of the leading textile innovations. Created by Taiwanese textile company Singtex, S.Café is a yarn made from coffee grounds which offers excellent natural anti-door qualities, in addition to UV ray protection and quick drying time and recycled polyester. Singtex’s technology combines the post-patented processed coffee ground and polymer to create master batches before spinning it into yarn. “S.Café technology, with a low-temperature, high-pressure and energy saving process, combines coffee grounds onto the yarn surface, changing the characteristics of the filament, and offers up to 200 percent faster drying time compared to cotton,” states the brand on its website.
The resulting coffee yarn is multi-functional and can be used in a variety of products, from outdoor and sports performance wear to household items used every day. The coffee grounds used to create the yarn are taken and recycled from some of the world’s largest coffee vendors, like Starbucks. In this way, the company gives a second life to coffee grounds which would have otherwise ended up in the trash. “There is never a need to waste time and energy to produce the essential S.Café raw material, as there is always coffee being consumed, therefore there will always be coffee grounds to be collected and used,” adds the brand. In addition, garments made from S.Café can also be composted at the end of their life, ensuring they do not go to waste in one of the world’s landfills and used to grow more coffee, giving it a circular lifecycle.
Since its launch in 2009, Singtex has developed a wide range of products made from S.Café, such as underwear, bedding and even footwear. The company is keen to continue advancing and developing further products for the textile and fashion industry alike. For example, P4Dry uses repurposed coffee grounds to create a 3D printed layer with four principle functions. Then there is Mylithe, the latest development of S.Café which uses an “air texture” method to give the fabric a cotton-like feel while maintaining its original properties. “We will continue to develop to achieve a full range of eco-friendly coffee products,” said Jason Chen, founder of S.Café and President of Singtex in an interview with the Fashion Globe. “In addition to textiles, we would like to improve a large extension of S.Café and apply it to different fields of business.”
“In order to achieve full use of waste: grains, grounds or slags, we will continue to explore further options. In the past eight years, we have successfully developed some private brands including S.Cafe, Ice Cafe, eco²sy, P4Dry, sefia™, mylithe™, Airnest, AEx Technology and Coffee cotton allowing us to create a whirlwind in new textiles leading the growth of output value and scale in the eco-friendly field.” In order to ensure that all their new products are up to standard, the company also holds a number of internationally recognised sustainable certifications, such as Blue Sign, Oekotex and Cradle-to-Cradle. And thanks to its ongoing international collaborations within the fashion sector the fabric can already be found in a number of products from leading fashion companies such as Timberland, American Eagle, North Face and Puma.
Now, the challenge remains in taking the fibre global and ensuring more apparel brands incorporate it into their collections in lieu of conventional fabrics and that it extends its reach to outside of the fashion industry.
Article orginally written by Alicia Carrasco Rozas for FashionUnited ES. Edited and translated for FashionUnited UK by Vivian Hendriksz
Read more on Sustainable textile innovations here: Lotus Fibres
Photos: Singtex Industrial CO. LTD.