Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Rethread Africa

Turning pineapple scraps into sustainable fabrics

Fashion & Beauty

A Kenyan startup makes circular materials and has also developed a closed-loop recycling process

Spotted: Most of the world’s textile waste ends up in Africa, where it is burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and water. Rethread Africa is combatting that pollution both by transforming agricultural waste into natural, biodegradable materials and by recycling blended garments.

Working closely with growers, processors, and distributors to source feedstock, Rethread Africa turns corn, sugar, and pineapple scraps into eco-friendly, bio-based fabrics. The simple, chemical-free extraction process produces natural fibres, pulp, and water. ReThread makes sure nothing goes to waste, with the fibres dried and spun into yarn for its materials, the water returned to the land for irrigation, and the pulp composted. The startup’s innovative pineapple-based material won the Make It Circular Challenge run by What Design Can Do and the IKEA Foundation.

Crucially, Rethread’s fabrics only use biomass that would otherwise be going to waste, like pineapple leaves, instead of using up valuable food sources. In partnering up with Rethread Africa, farmers can offload some of their waste while earning an additional income stream and once Rethread fabrics are no longer needed, they will break down and enrich the soil.

To boost textile circularity further, the company also has its own recycling process, called CottonCycle, which uses a hydrothermal and dissolution treatment to break down blends of cotton and polyester in discarded garments. The process recovers more than 97 per cent of the polyester in the garments, which can then be turned into new fabrics. The cotton that the process recovers is then turned into a Cellulosic Superabsorbent Polymer (C-SAP). Farmers can use the polymer to maximise water retention in soil. C-SAP holds more than 30 times its weight in water, making it ideal for use by growers dealing with water scarcity.

From waterproof, washable shoes made from ocean plastic to a new polycotton recycling process, innovations in Springwise’s library show the many ways in which technology is being used to help make fashion more sustainable.

Written By: Keely Khoury and Matilda Cox



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