H&M Foundation: food crop waste is next natural and regenerative textile source

The H&M Foundation has awarded Circular Systems, a materials company, the 2018 Global Change Award for technology and processes that can turn food crop waste into sustainable and regenerative fashion.


Food waste to textiles, Circular System's Global Change Award winning process - H&M Foundation

Isaac Nichelson, the CEO of US-based Circular Systems S.P.C. (social purpose company) says that they are calling their system the Agraloop. “[It’s a] regenerative system that uses plant-based chemistry and plant-based energy to upgrade the fibers whilst enriching the local communities and creating a new economic system,” he explained in a release. 

The raw materials for the Agraloop technology are low cost. They are derived from banana trunks, pineapple leaves, sugarcane bark, and the stems of oilseed hemp and flax plants.

Currently food crop waste is burnt or left to rot, releasing methane gas and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Agraloop system therefore helps to regenerate depleted soil and reduce air pollution, and the fibers it produces are safe and healthy to wear. 

From a technological standpoint, the system is a closed-loop bio process that happens at the farm level using modular mini-mills. The mini-mills produce plant-based energy and chemistry from the same food waste. The fibers produced are fully recyclable, renewable and biodegradable.

An additional selling point of the Agraloop concept is that it does not compete with a farmer's primary focus of growing food, instead providing an additional source of income.

In 1960, 97% of textile fibers came from plants and animals. Today, we use 35% natural fibers with petrochemicals leading the norm. Circular Systems sees an opportunity to convert 10 million tons of food waste into sustainable textiles and fashion, helping drive a paradigm shift back to natural fabrics.

Nichelson elaborated on his company's mission saying, "We seek to help our industry begin to decouple from cotton as the world’s dominant natural fiber resource."

Nichelson added that winning the Global Change Award means Circular Systems can quickly scale its technology. As the grand prize winner, the company received a grant of $350,000 from the H&M Foundation.

Circular Systems' Agraloop was selected as this year's winner of H&M's Global Change Award out of a field of 2,600 applicants from 180 countries. The award seeks to recognize the most exciting developments in sustainable fashion.

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