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Spotlight on bio-based textiles: The green evolution – non-toxic chemistry’s role in transforming textiles

By Dr. Greg Altman, CEO and Co-Founder of Evolved By Nature

Who knew a silk cocoon could contain a ground-breaking idea? An honoree of Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas, Evolved By Nature’s Activated Silk technology is a green chemistry platform that replaces petrochemicals in everyday products spanning the textile, personal care and medical industries. Its mission? Creating healthier relationships between people, the things they love, and the planet – all using the science of a silkworm cocoon.

In textiles specifically, Activated Silk technology addresses problems associated with the invisible but invaluable role of chemistry in the finishing process. Within the sustainability space, visible solutions tend to take over the conversation. We often ask, “What materials are used to make textiles?”

Although answering this will help pave the way to a greener textile industry, the rampant use of fossil-fuel-derived finishing chemistry within the industry, among other harmful practices, cannot be sidelined.

Exposure to the more than 150 chemicals regularly used to enhance fabric characteristics1 does not end at the mills which make clothing soft, colourful, moisture-wicking and wrinkle-resistant. Consumers have a relationship with their clothes and the chemicals used to make them.

Carcinogenic, allergenic and endocrine-disrupting, many of these chemicals enjoy trade-secret protection – so no one really knows what ends up against the customer’s skin or down the drain after a wash.

Our reliance on the petrochemical industry in textiles is everywhere: from synthetic materials to chemical processing. COVID-19 has revealed the real fragility of the current fast-fashion paradigm.

With fashion on pause, we have the opportunity to forge a more bioharmonious relationship with humanity and the planet.

More brands will face pressure to adopt sustainability commitments, protect the safety of workers and consumers, and improve supply chain transparency. Green chemistry plays a crucial role in fulfilling all of these aspects.

Activated Silk technology is a novel, bioharmonious solution that addresses concerns about the health and environmental costs of the chemistry we wear. Replacing common textile finishing chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenols, and silicones with silk-based chemistry can significantly reduce collective exposure to these hazards. The benefits don’t end there – the technology also performs just as well (or even better) than the usual suspects (ex. in moisture-wicking, durability, colorfastness) and is a simple swap in the manufacturing process. From pesticide-free, naturally grown mulberry leaves, to processing with only water, salt and heat, Activated Silk is a renewable, non-toxic solution to our petrochemical reliance that’s safer for people and the planet.

(1) Evolved by Nature, A review of the use of chemistry in Polyamide (NylonTM) performance apparel and the potential of Activated Silk green chemistry, 2019.

This expert view is part of BMI’s spotlight week on bio-based textiles. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bio Market Insights’ editorial team and management.

If you were interested in reading this story, you may also be interested in the ones below. 

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: Sustainable innovation – don’t be blinkered by large brands

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: #whatsinmyclothes – The truth behind the label

Read: Expert view: Will ‘greenwashing’ work out to be good for textiles?

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: How to make sure modern slavery is not embedded in your sustainable cotton products

Read: Deputy editor’s view: Cleaning out one’s closet 

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: Regenerative materials sourced from plants, not petroleum-based synthetic plastics

Read:  Introducing bio-based and sustainable components to long-standing supply chains.

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