Apple Peel Clothes? Welcome To Food Waste as Fashion

Apple Peel Clothes? Welcome To Food Waste as Fashion

Nov 23, 2023Jonathan Englert

At Good & Fugly, we take food waste seriously. Our guiding mission is to do our part to help limit the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that goes into landfill, helping you, our farmers and the planet in the process.

Our solution was to make it possible to buy fresh and delicious boxes of this produce directly from farmers, feeding families better and cheaper than what the supermarkets can and paying our growers a fair price. So we’re always looking out for innovations that are tackling the challenge from other perspectives. 

And that’s why we think you’ll be fascinated to see what’s going on with turning vegetables and fruits into material for clothing. As good as the best leather, with no cows harmed and no waste in landfill! 

Ever thought of wearing food waste? No, really!

The fashion industry is one of the most resource-hungry sectors in the world. Truly incredible amounts of farmland is dedicated to the harvesting of cotton, wool, leather, and other materials to be turned into clothing, for a sector that has conditioned people across the world to “need” to update their wardrobe every year. 

Now, some entrepreneurial minds are looking to the sustainability of the fashion industry, and also noticing another worldwide challenge – the challenge of food waste. Remember, in Australia, as much as 25% of all produce doesn’t leave the farm. 

We’re doing our bit to fight back against this through our boxes of fugly fruit and vegetables, saving produce that otherwise would have landed in landfill. 

But here is perhaps another opportunity that we shouldn’t be overlooking: many food crops that would otherwise go into landfill can be repurposed as feedstock (the raw materials that are converted into the clothing that we then buy and wear.

How does this even happen?

There is some real scientific wizardry that goes into the creation of this feedstock. Without trying to get too technical, innovative people have found ways to convert fruit peel, including apple skin, grape musk, and orange peel, into fibres with a texture similar to leather that can have polymers and other materials added for strength, and then used in clothing production. 

Meanwhile, seed oil, plant leaves, and stalks also play a pivotal role in this eco-friendly revolution. There are entire companies that focus on crops like hemp seed oil, flaxseed oil, pineapple leaves, banana trees, and sugarcane bark that allow them to transform waste into natural fibres. We’re not talking about small quantities here, either. We’re talking about as much as 250 million tonnes of fibre each year – that’s a lot of material for clothing! 

And we’re not even done. Another material, biogas, derived from the decomposition of organic waste, produces polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) used in thermoplastics. There’s potential to turn this into materials as well, with several large companies discovering innovative ways to create bio-nylon fibres and PHA polymers that can be spun into yarn.

So… we’ll be wearing mushrooms?

Exactly! And pineapple leaves, coconuts, and more. Here are just some examples of innovation in this space that you’re going to hear a lot more about:

Piñatex: Turning Pineapple Leaves into Fashion

One promising solution is Piñatex, a textile made from pineapple leaf fibers. This innovative material not only reduces reliance on traditional leather but also promotes cruelty-free and eco-friendly fashion. The only downside is that you won’t be wearing a coat like you see in The Matrix or The Crow made entirely of this just yet. While its strength is comparable to leather, it’s much more expensive. That being said, it is being integrated into many fashions by smaller players, and as the costs of production decline, we’ll see it popping up more and more. 

WineLeather: The Italian Blend of Wine Waste

Italians love their wine (and we love Italian wine). But they’re also not a people to rest on their laurels and winemakers there have come up with something ingenious. WineLeather has been developed by VEGEA, an Italian company aiming to integrate chemistry and agriculture for sustainable products, WineLeather uses the discarded skin, seeds, and stalks of grapes to create another plant-based alternative to traditional leather, helping wine farmers deal with a serious waste problem without denying is their incredible artistry.

Orange Fiber: A Citrus-Infused Textile

The innovative spirit of Italy doesn’t stop with the WineLeather, either. They’ve also come up with some great uses for the by-products of the production of citrus juice. Orange Fiber is turning some real heads: H&M featured it in a collection in 2019, and that’s the holy grail for fashion materials: once you’ve broken into fast fashion production, you’re placed well to lead some real change across the entire industry.  

PelleMela: Apple Leather from Discarded Peels

Okay, it might be sounding like a love-in for Italian ingenuity right now, but the Italians are leading the charge in the space, and the rest of the world would pay attention. A third material that Italians have devised is apple leather, known as PelleMela. Apple leather is durable, flexible, and cruelty-free, and gaining particular popularity among various shoe brands.

Mycelium Leather: The Fungi Fashion Revolution

Mushrooms are going to play such a role in reducing the global reliance on meat for food, and they may well have a role in more sustainable fashion, too. There’s a Californian company called MycoWorks that has invented a soft, subtle, and yet durable solution to leather using mushrooms. High-end brand, Hermès, used the material to create a handbag, and while that tells you where this material is being pitched right now, it has every chance of entering the broader eco-fashion discussion. 

Cocona: Activewear from Coconut Shells

Finally, we can’t overlook the importance of activewear. Because activewear is used in situations that involve a lot of bending, flexing, and rubbing, the demands on material used for activewear are particularly strenuous. Enter coconuts. Derived from coconut shells, a new material called Cocona is a semi-synthetic fabric primarily used in activewear thanks to its durability, quick-drying, and wrinkle-free properties. 

And that's just a start! This particular industry is a fledgling, and is only just beginning to scale up as a serious alternative to traditional materials in clothing. 

And yet, when you think about it, converting fruit and vegetable waste into clothing isn’t a new concept of all. Thousands of years ago, our ancient ancestors realised that rather than simply eating the cow or sheep and letting the rest go to waste, the skin and fur could be converted into clothing. All we’re doing now, in the 2020’s, is applying that idea to cruelty-free food sources, and doing some great work in minimising food waste as a result. 

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