Clothing is made up of fiber, a basic material, that is transformed into yarn and then either woven or knit. With so much clothing ending up in landfills, what if there was a way we could reverse this process to recycle that yarn?
This process is currently being heavily researched and a few clothing brands have found ways to turn fabric back into yarn to be re-spun for new garments. One company using these techniques is Osom. They take discarded clothing and re-spin it into a yarn. They are using this technology to recycle fabric scraps from garment factories and have recently partnered with Stella McCartney to create a line together. Another company is Marine Layer, who recently launched a Re-Spun collection using old t-shirts to create yarn and then new t-shirts. Unfortunately, their addition of polyester (not a natural fiber) to the new t-shirt makes it harder to be recycled again.
So, what are natural fibers? These are fibers that come directly from plants (seed, stem also called bast, leaf) or from an animal - usually hair except for silk which comes from the cocoons of silk worms and spider silk. Interestingly, bamboo, popularly advertised as “eco-friendly,” isn't considered a natural fiber because it has to be processed from bamboo stalks already turned into a pulp.
After seeing what a natural fiber really is, a company should consider where they are growing the fiber. If they are using land that could be used to grow food or cutting down forests for space, it becomes an issue. Since synthetic fibers can be crafted inside a lab and don’t need more land that could be seen as a pro. However, it has been reported that even with land, water, and pesticides, the emissions for natural fibers are still less than synthetic production.
The biggest advantage of natural fibers (when naturally dyed - we will get into that later) is that they will degrade over time back into the soil, verse synthetics that pollute primarily with microfibers (we will also get to that).
Some of these natural materials you possibly have never heard of before, and I think it’s best to start with the least known. These materials are so new in the global marketplace that they don't show up on the global fiber demand projections.
Some of these natural materials you possibly have never heard of before, and I think it's best to start with the least known. These materials are so new in the global marketplace that they don't show up on the global fiber demand projections.
These are only a few of the options available for natural fibers and are not conclusive. Check out facts about natural fibers below.