Eco-friendly research and development company Nanollose (ASX: NC6) has announced the world’s first wearable garment using its trademarked Nullabor rayon fibre, sourced from sustainable coconut waste.
The innovative biotechnology company today unveiled a knitted sweater made from the “tree-free” fibre, which is derived using microbes that naturally ferment liquid waste products from food industries into cellulose, a raw material similar to cotton.
According to Nanollose, this “first of its kind” garment marks a breakthrough for the clothing industry which is urgently seeking sustainable alternatives to environmentally-harmful traditional fabrics like rayon and cotton.
“We didn’t have to cut down any trees to create this sweater, and we have now demonstrated that our tree-free rayon fibre can be used in the same way as other commonly-used fibres to make clothing and textiles, without the hefty environmental footprint,” Nanollose managing director Alfie Germano said.
By contrast, the raw materials used to make traditional rayon fibre are extracted by cutting down trees, which are then chipped and treated with hazardous chemicals in the pulping process. According to Nanollose, about 150 million trees are chopped down each year for this purpose.
Nanollose’s story starts in 2006 when agricultural scientist and winemaker Gary Cass discovered that his faulty batch of wine had fermented and resulted in a leather-like material when dried out.
Nine years later, the newly-formed Nanollose company debuted its “beer dress” at an expo in Italy.
In May 2018, the company revealed its breakthrough Nullabor rayon fibre and increased its production to pilot scale.
It was then able to create yarn and fabric, launching the products at a textile event in Vancouver, Canada.
In October, Nanollose unveiled a test garment (smaller than the adult-sized sweater announced today) made from the Nullarbor fibre and created using 3D sweater-knit technology.
According to the company, the fibre performs “extremely well” and can successfully withstand the industrial manufacturing process.
Throughout the development process, Nanollose has highlighted the fact that the fibre, fabric and garments were all produced using standard industrial equipment currently used by textile and clothing manufacturers.
According to Mr Germano, this validates the company’s entire process, as it means no retro-fitting would be required for future manufacturing partners.
“We have successfully taken waste and created clothing and we have done it following industrial protocol,” he said.
Nanollose currently has a memorandum of understanding with PT Super Natami Utama, one of Indonesia’s largest and most established producers of coconut products, for the supply of coconut waste and by-products.
To ensure it can supply future partners with significant quantities of fibre, the company said it aimed to increase fibre production over the next three to six months.