A Japanese company has created a polyester yarn derived completely from bio-based materials.
Typically, polyester is made from a process extremely reliant on oil. It is non-biodegradable and produced from petrochemicals in an energy-sucking, heavily polluting process that takes up large quantities of water and uses harmful chemicals.
Eco-friendly yarn certainly isn’t a new concept, but bio-based materials of the past were still comprised of 60% oil-derived chemicals. For textiles claiming to be environmentally healthy, their high fossil fuel content is far from impact-free.
The new yarn, by chemistry multinational Toray, is changing that as the first polyester made entirely from plants. The company creates the yarn using a bio-polymer of molasses—yes, the same molasses as the sweet, thick syrup you can bake with.
The molasses is sourced from sugar production factories in India and Brazil, where it is a natural and plentiful bi-product. By using molasses instead of fossil fuels, Toray is cutting down on waste from these facilities and using a biodegradable, eco-friendly material.
The technology to create this plant-based polyester is still in development, meaning that the yarn can only be produced on a small scale and is not yet ready for distribution to the masses.
However, Toray has announced that it will begin to use bio-polymers in its textiles instead of making 100% petroleum-based polyesters as a way to jumpstart sustainable practices within the industry.
They will also continue development of the bio-based polyester yarn until it can be made in larger quantities and sold commercially.
“Our vision is to achieve polyester production without using crude oil resources, as Mother Earth’s gifts need to be protected,” stated Kojo Sasaki, a member of Toray’s Green Innovation Team.
Fashion today is constantly changing, and meeting the high demand for new styles fashions entails an ever-increasing rate of textile consumption that is reaching unsustainable levels.
Clothes have become disposable even as the materials we use to produce them grow more and more scarce.
As a result, the textiles industry is one of many contributing to the climate change that threatens to reshape the environment as we know it.
Slowing this process will require a major shift in our cultural mindset from throwaway to sustainable fashion, and this plant-based polyester is a step in the right direction.
Creating new yarns from plants could help reduce environmental impact by eliminating the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with more sustainable materials.