Atlantic Leather in the tiny town of Sauðárkrókur, Iceland is another enterprise that converts fish skin to leather. The firm boasts that its products are is environmentally friendly in two ways: they use raw material that would otherwise be dumped; and the production process makes use of renewable hydro and geothermal energy on the island.
The manufacturers say their process ensures odorless products. Similar in strength to cowhide with the appearance of reptile skin, fish skin leathers and suedes can be used for handbags, belts, clothing, small accessories, and shoes, as well as furniture and interior decoration. Recently designers at Nike created a line of fish leather shoes. Prada and Dior have reportedly also experimented with the material
Chitin is a polysaccharide found in the outer skeleton of arthropods including insects, crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. Chitosan is the deacetylated form. It is the second most plentiful, naturally occurring polymer, after cellulose, and its structure is similar to cellulose. For commercial use, chitin is principally sourced from waste in shrimp and crab processing. It is used in a number of industries, including textiles.
Chitin-blend fabrics are most often made of a blend of viscose and chitin. The Swiss-based company, Swicofil asserts that its chitin fabric CRABYON is safe and hypoallergenic for people with seafood sensitivities, which is important news for those with shellfish allergy. Chitosan typically makes up about 5 to 20-percent of final fabric blends. Chitin derivatives are also used in products such as contact lens, surgical stitches, and artificial skin.
Designers and engineers are working on more alternative fibers using food waste. For example, activated carbon derived from coconut husks can be blended into fabric with recycled polyester.
The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel is producing a silky textile for which patent is pending. The process involves putting starchy food waste high in sugar through a lactic acid fermentation with nano-zinc oxide as a catalyst, to create lactide, a type of biodegradable polyester—and finally acid melt spinning, where the plastic is melted and formed into thread. Edwin Keh, CEO of the Institute, has said that the process can recycle 10 tons of food waste into one ton of bio-fabric.
Sugar-cane bagasse, an abundant waste fibrous residue of sugarcane, is also used in the apparel industry and, can additionally be turned into paper. The extraction of bagasse fibers from sugarcane rind involves first mechanical separation, and then and chemical extraction with sodium hydroxide. The work-in-process is shot at very high pressure through tiny holes, solidified and spun into yarn, producing rayon fibers such as viscose, modal and lyocell.
A great many if not most of these textile inventions have cellulose at their raw material base. Technologically sophisticated methods of treating the cellulose for strength and durability have produced new fabric already in commerce, with more surely to come. Other waste-derived creations are on the horizon. For example, converting dried, treated inedible food components into accessories like buttons and buckles; and using methane gas produced by dairy cows to feed bacteria that produce biodegradable bio-polyester fibers.
It’s certain that food waste has huge environmental impacts and corresponding economic costs that need to be addressed. The above-mentioned innovations just might produce benefit in both areas, and to consumers as well.
Dr. Moyers has more than two decades of experience in developing, training, and auditing food safety, quality and dietary supplement management systems. She is an SQF-registered consultant and trainer, a lead trainer for FDA’s Preventive Controls and Foreign Supplier Program rules, and a consultant, auditor and trainer for dietary supplement current GMPs. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.