• Using Eco-Friendly Materials When Manufacturing in Asia: A Complete Guide

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    Eco friendly materials

    Looking for ways to make your e-commerce product more eco-friendly? You’re not alone. I estimate that roughly half of the customers we work with today have some sort of ‘eco’ dimension as part of their product concept.

    After all, if Adidas can make shoes from recycled ocean plastic, then I guess anyone can?

    While I wish it was that simple, it does take more than a cool website and good intentions to make your product more eco-friendly.

    Keep reading, and learn what it takes to use eco-friendly materials when manufacturing products in China, Vietnam and other countries in Asia.

    It’s not as easy as you might think.

    List of Eco-Friendly Materials

    Shufen Lee, an independent research collaborator with Asiaimportal (HK) Limited, contributed to this article. She did extensive research to create a list of various types of eco-friendly materials.

    • Recycled materials
    • Natural materials
    • Bio-plastics
    • Organic cotton
    • Wood and paper
    • Types of Eco-Friendly Materials

    Brand Materials

    Advanced materials, such as Pinatex, don’t appear out of anywhere. It can take years of research and development to bring new eco-friendly materials to the market. Such materials are often the intellectual property of the company responsible for their development.

    As such, many eco-friendly materials can only be procured by specific brands, and are not freely available on the market. In other words, if you want to use Pinatex, then you must procure this directly from the material supplier.

    This also means that you must agree to their terms.

    Availability

    It’s up to the material supplier if they want to sell their material to you or not. Some material brands are highly selective, as they want to steer clear of companies attempting to “greenwash” their products.

    In case they are willing to work with you, expect to provide a complete product specification and company background before they are willing to do business.

    Further, exclusive eco-friendly material suppliers may also have exclusivity agreements with larger brands in place.

    In other words, you should not take it for granted that they are even willing to sell their materials to you.

    Logistics

    Most eco-friendly material suppliers are based in Europe, the United States, and other developed countries. Their materials are in general not readily available in China, Vietnam and other manufacturing countries. It’s therefore up to you, as the importer, to arrange delivery from the material supplier to your manufacturer in Asia.

    This is not limited to transportation, but also customs clearance and import duties in the manufacturing country.

    Price

    Eco-friendly materials are generally more expensive to produce than ‘standard materials’. You must either accept this or give up on any ambition to bring a more eco-friendly product to the market.

    As mentioned, you must also factor in additional shipping costs, customs clearance fees, and import duties.

    MOQ

    The minimum order quantity (MOQ) requirement also tends to be higher compared to ‘standard materials’.

    Independent Material Certification Schemes

    Another option is to use materials from suppliers certified by an independent organization, such as GOTS and FSC. This gives you more options, as you can purchase materials from a large number of suppliers.

    Wood & Paper Products: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

    The FSC works with accredited partners that, through carrying out on-site forest visits, ensure that the forest is managed according to their 10 core sustainability principles.

    Each supplier in the supply chain must apply for an FSC transfer certificate. This also includes you as an importer.

    FSC Supply Chain

    You cannot use the FSC symbol in case you buy from a supplier without an FSC transfer certificate – even if they, in turn, buy from an FSC certified raw material suppliers. In other words, you need an ‘unbroken’ supply chain.

    Organic Cotton: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

    A supplier can be GOTS certified if they pass a factory inspection performed by an accredited third party. There is only a handful of ‘GOTS accredited’ inspection companies with offices in China:

    • CERES GmbH
    • Control Union Certifications b.v.
    • Ecocert Greenlife

    Suppliers that successfully pass audits can receive a GOTS certificate, which certifies that their cotton is organic. GOTS certified suppliers are listed on the official GOTS website.

    Natural Materials

    Many natural materials are freely available on the market and not ‘controlled’ by an independent material certification scheme or specific IP holder. Here are a few examples:

    • Bamboo hardwood
    • Linen fabric
    • Hemp fabric
    • Acetate

    However, you should avoid coatings, chemicals, and treatments rendering your eco-friendly material not so eco-friendly.

    Recycled Materials

    Brands like Adidas are investing heavily in using recycled materials to manufacture products. Using recycled materials is not only a matter of using modern technology but also logistics – nothing can be recycled without waste material.

    As explained by Greenbiz.com, the problem is that the demand for recycled materials exceeds the available supply or waste materials to recycle. This problem is further exacerbated by the limitations that China and other Asian countries have imposed on the importation of waste material from other countries.

    Big brands have the resources to invest in both hardware and supply chain management. In other words, Adidas and Unilever can do things that your average OEM supplier in China or Vietnam can’t do when it comes to using recycled materials.

    Even if your supplier claims to offer recycled materials, you still don’t have insight into the treatments and chemicals used to recycle the materials.

    These treatments and chemicals may be worse than the impact of buying virgin (non-recycled) materials.

    I generally advise against using “generic” recycled materials as a small buyer (lacking the resources to control the supply chain) – unless you can make a purchase from a material brand such as Econyl.

    Are you willing to do what it takes?

    Good intentions alone don’t make your product more eco-friendly. Nor is it sufficient to merely get a ‘Yes’ when asking a supplier if they offer eco-friendly materials.

    Almost half of our customers joining our platform today have an ‘eco dimension’ built into their product concept. That said, many give up when faced with the additional complications of researching and procuring more eco-friendly materials.

    You must put in the hours to find the right material, identify suppliers and arrange the logistics.

    That said, there are great rewards for Entrepreneurs who are willing to walk the extra mile. This is not a trend, but a permanent supply chain shift and something that I wholeheartedly support.

    List of Eco-Friendly Materials

    Tencel™ lyocell

    Tencel ™ branded lyocell is a cellulose fabric made from dissolving wood pulp. The fibre is produced by Lenzing AG based in Austria. As a naturally derived fibre, Tencel is biodegradable and its fabric is most commonly known for its natural comfort, softness, wrinkle resistance, moisture absorption, and thermal regulation functionality.

    The wood pulp used is harvested from certified and controlled sources and is subsequently dissolved into a solvent. This process is done in a closed-looped system, meaning that the solvent is reused repeatedly with more than 99% recovery rate. This closed loop system ensures that harmful solvent waste is minimized.

    The wet slurry mixture is then pushed through small holes to make long fibre, which is then woven to create Tencel.

    Compared to cotton manufacturing, Tencel requires less energy, water and traditional dyes since wood pulp has higher absorbency. This makes Tencel more eco-friendly compared to most fabric materials.

    To reduce textile waste ending up in landfills, Lenzing AG combines post consumers cotton scraps as part of the raw material with wood pulp and turns them into brand new cellulosic fibre known as Tencel ™ Lyocell Fibre with REFIBRA™ technology.

    This manufacturing process takes 95% less water to produce than conventional cotton, with higher resource efficiency and lower environmental impact. Since both raw materials originate from plant source, the resulting fibre is fully biodegradable.

    Tencel is also widely recognized by independent organizations such as USDA for its biobased fibre and by Vinçotte, a Belgium certification company, verifying that it is biodegradable and compostable under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions.

    Seacell™

    Seacell™ branded fibre is a cellulose fibre mixed with seaweed that is developed by a German company called SmartFIber AG.

    Lenzing AG produced the high tech fibre exclusively for SmartFiberAG in plants that use a close loop production system. Therefore, the manufacturing process is very eco-friendly.

    SeaCell is a fibre that locks the unique properties of seaweed into wearable fabrics. It is breathable, light and feels soft and supple against the skin.

    The most beneficial aspect of this fibre is that the nutrients of the seaweed are retained in the fibre, which the skin can then absorb. These nutrients can help activate cell regeneration, which can aid in the relief of skin diseases, reduce skin inflammations and sooth itchiness. Its high antioxidant levels can help protect skin against harmful free radicals.

    The harvesting of the seaweed follows a sustainable process, whereby only the regenerative parts of the seaweed are removed for this purpose. Furthermore, seaweed is untreated to retain its ecological value.

    Not only this fibre is biodegradable, Seacell fibre is also recognized and certified by independent institutions such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100, EU Ecolabel, FSC, Vinçotte and many more.

    Pinatex

    When it comes to vegan leather alternatives, Piñatex is the material to look out for. Piñatex leather is made from pineapple leaf fibre, manufactured by the British company Ananas Anam.

    The pineapple leaves are the byproduct of existing pineapples harvested in the Philippines, so that no extra land, pesticides or fertilizers are required in its production. Instead of burning the byproducts, this helps to reduce waste and provide an additional income for the farming communities.

    The manufacturing process includes extracting the long fibre through a process called decortication, which is performed at the plantation by the farming communities. The leftover biomass byproduct from this process can be used as organic fertilizer, therefore closing the loop of the material’s production.

    The fibre goes through an industrial process converting it into non-woven textile, and is subsequently transported to Spain for specialized finishing. The finished Piñatex product has a leather-like appearance that is soft, flexible and durable, and can be easily printed on, stitched and cut, thus making it suitable for a number of fashion products.

    Ananas Anam does not use any substances that are hazardous to the environment since the dyes used for Piñatex® are GOTS approved and the resins used for coating comply with AFIRM standards for low harmful impact substances.

    Piñatex is made of natural fibre which is 100% biodegradable. However, the resins used in the coating of the fibre are petroleum based and, as such, are currently not biodegradable. However, there is an ongoing effort to develop a bio-based coating, which will take Piñatex to the forefront of sustainability.

    MICROSILK™

    Microsilk™ is a revolutionary synthetic and sustainable silk fibre inspired by spider silk. Unlike the regular silk production process, which does not help conserve silkworms, no living spiders are harmed in the manufacturing of Microsilk™.

    California-based startup company Bolt Threads studies the silk that spiders make in order to replicate the DNA and inject them into the yeast cells. Combined with sugar and water in the fermenter, the yeast cells are then left to ferment. The mixture is then purified into a powder and mixed with a solvent. The resulting liquid silk protein are then spun into fibre.

    Microsilk™ has remarkable properties such as high tensile strength, elasticity, durability, and softness.

    It is a renewable fibre as the main input in the fibre production process is sugar from plants that are grown, harvested, and replanted. This fibre leaves less environmental impact compared to majority of textiles that are made of polyester and other non-renewable, petroleum-derived fibre.

    Yulex ™

    Yulex™ is a brand for natural rubber that is FSC certified, sustainably sourced and produced in the United States by Yulex Corporation.

    Yulex natural rubber undergoes a purification process, which removes over 99.9% of harmful impurities including proteins from the traditional commercial Hevea latex. Therefore, Yulex Pure natural rubber is considered a safe alternative for people with Type I latex allergies.

    Synthetic materials such as nitrile rubber and neoprene are alternatives that do not have the proteins that cause Type I latex allergies, however, the synthetic rubber releases more carbon dioxide footprints than natural rubber and is non-biodegradable.

    Currently, Yulex rubber has been used as a neoprene alternative in the production of wetsuits in partnership with Patagonia, an American outdoor clothing and gear company. Yulex natural rubber has nearly identical physical performance as neoprene in terms of tensile strength, tear strength, and elasticity. Its usage can definitely be expanded to more products to replace other petroleum-based rubber in the future.

    Though there is a long existent history of natural rubber, the expansion of rubber production has been a driver of deforestation, including areas of high conservation value.

    The Yulex natural rubber comes from sources that are FSC certified, that is, the trees are not grown on newly cut rainforest land. The FSC certification also ensures that the social and economic well-being of forest-dependent communities are protected.

    Orange Fiber

    Orange Fiber is a biodegradable fabric made from oranges invented by an Italian startup company with the same name. The company extracts cellulose from discarded orange rinds collected from the industrial pressing and processing of oranges and converts it into a material resembling silk.

    In Italy, hundreds of thousands of tons of citrus peel and by-products from juice production are thrown away every year, which has both financial and environmental costs. Instead of throwing these by-products away, they are converted into precious resources creating a unique and sustainable fabric.

    Orange Fiber is also one of the five startup companies to win the Global Change Award in 2015 awarded by H&M. The Global Change Award aims to reduce fashion’s impact on the planet and protect our living conditions by calling for ideas to make the fashion industry circular.

    Since winning the Global Change Award, Orange Fiber has collaborated with Salvatore Ferragamo, one of Italy’s top fashion houses and a world leader in the luxury industry, in releasing the very first fashion collection made exclusively from Orange Fiber fabric.

    Orange Fiber is still in the process of increasing their production capacity further to meet the demand from fashion brands. Orange Fiber is definitely one of the companies to watch out for in the near future when they are able to provide more cost accessible fabric.

    ECONYL Regenerated Nylon

    Regenerated nylon material Econyl is a recycled nylon fabric created by the Italian firm Aquafil. Nylon is not biodegradable and has a huge environmental impact whereby many consumer’s nylon waste end up being in landfills or oceans.

    Instead of letting waste accumulate, Aquafil collects consumer synthetic waste such as plastic, fabric waste and fishing nets from the ocean so that they can be regenerated into new nylon yarn that is exactly the same quality as the regular nylon.

    The waste collected is then cleaned, shredded and depolymerized to extract nylon. It is subsequently polymerized and transformed into yarn before being re-commercialized into textile products.

    Furthermore, an international waste collection network has also been established, based on partnerships with various public and private institutions, in order to allow Aquafil to collect large quantities of waste for regeneration into Econyl.

    Econyl nylon is still a nylon yarn and so, washing the fabric will still shed micro-plastics into the oceans. Nevertheless, it is still a more promising and sustainable fibre than virgin nylon because it uses significantly less water and resources in the production process.

    The waste problem from landfills is turned into a fashion solution. Since its first launch, many fashion retailer brands have been using ECONYL regenerated nylon as their materials for a range of products such as swimwear, wetsuits, athletic clothes, water-repellent coats, backpacks, etc.

    NetPlus™

    NetPlus™ is material made from recycled fishnet. It was developed by Bureo, a California startup company. The big problem surrounding the ocean environment has always been the plastic pollution.

    Being aware of the various threats to our waterways, the founders of Bureo made it their mission to do something about ocean plastics.

    Bureo set up a recycling and collection program in South America to collect discarded fishing nets, which make up an estimated 10% of plastic in oceans. These fishnets have been found to be four times more harmful than other forms of plastic pollution.

    These fishnets are cleaned and separated by material type before they are turned into NetPlus recycled pellets. The pellets are then commercialized into making consumers’ products such as skateboard decks, surf fins, sunglass frames, office chairs, board games, etc.

    These recycled fishnet consumer goods are also produced with 70% less energy than it takes to produce plastics from original source. Finally, the fishnet collections initiative has financed community projects supporting sustainable development in coastal communities.

    PrimaLoft® Bio

    Made from 100% post-consumer recycled material, PrimaLoft Bio fibre manufactured by an American company called PrimaLoft, is the first ever 100% recycled and biodegradable synthetic fibre.

    According to ASTM standards, it shows 86.1% biodegradation in 499 days under high-solids anaerobic-digestion conditions and 57.4% biodegradation in 486 days in marine environment. The accelerated rate of fibre breakdowns is technologically optimized so that they are more attractive to the naturally occurring microbes found in these environments.

    The synthetic fibre can also be chemically recycled to its basic components so that it can be rejuvenated into a new high-performance material, without compromising its original integrity.

    Agraloop™ BioFibre

    Food crop waste can now be transformed into high-value natural fibre, called Agraloop™ BioFibre. This technology is developed by the Los Angeles startup company Circular Systems.

    The range of feedstock that goes into the fibre production includes oil-seed hemp, oil-seed flax, pineapple leaves, banana tree trunks, rice straw and sugar cane bark.

    Instead of burning these crop wastes or letting them rot, which would result in massive CO2 and methane emissions, these are converted into valuable resources that can be used in a variety of ways including the manufacturing of clothing textiles, organic fertilizer, bio-energy, and eco-friendly paper packaging.

    This low cost closed looped technology also brings additional income to the farmers.

    Bloom Algae Foam

    BLOOM Algae foam is a brand of high-performance foam made partially from algae. The foam is commonly used in making sandals and soles for shoes. It is developed by a company called ALGIX, headquartered in Meridian, Mississippi.

    The rise in global temperature along with human activity and excess nutrient runoff have contributed to uncontrollable rise in algae growth. The rapid and imbalanced growth of algae is an increasing threat to the ecosystems.

    ALGIX gives an innovative solution to an ecological problem by filtering water filled with algae and converting these algae into pellets before being expanded into flexible foam. Adding algae is a perfect solution not only because of its natural thermoplastic quality but also because water from the oceans can be cleaned during the collection of algae.

    While the algae biomass itself is a natural material, it is combined with Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) compound. Therefore, the final foam used in the component is not biodegradable. However, this method has significantly displaced a large percentage of fossil fuel-based EVA that is currently being used in these products.

    Bio-Acetate

    Acetate is a plant-based cellulosic material that is very commonly used for high-quality eyewear. It is known for its strength, durability, elasticity, resistance to temperature, and hypoallergenic and transparent qualities.

    While acetate is a non-petroleum based plastic derived material, plasticizers are added to increase the plasticity of this cellulosic material. These plasticizers are normally made out of chemicals such as Diethyl Phthalate, an ingredient that is harmful and releases toxin gases when burned.

    Bio-acetate is made entirely of organic material and is plasticizer-free. By changing the chemicals into biodegradable plasticizers, the entire material becomes biodegradable.

    The best manufacturer for acetate eyewear seems to be Mazzucchelli in Italy, which is the leading producer of acetate worldwide. This Italian manufacturer presented an innovative bio-based acetate called M49, which is 100% biodegradable. The material is popular among designer brands with a responsible, sustainable and ecological approach.

    Natural Fibre

    Petroleum-derived fibre such as polyester, nylon and acrylic are most commonly used in textile products. Synthetic fibre accounts for about 60% of textile fibre used in the world.

    Such fibre is not biodegradable and causes a problem when the textile product reaches the end of its cycle. It also causes micro-plastic pollution when it is washed.

    Natural fibres that are not petroleum derived are more sustainable and eco-friendly. However, not all natural fibres are better for the environment. Some natural fibre require a lot of pesticides and insecticides during cultivation.

    The following natural fibres are amongst the more sustainable options at present:

    a. Organic Cotton

    Cotton is the most common fibre used and accounts for about 30% of textile fibre used in the world. It is a natural fibre, which means that it does not cause micro-plastic pollution in the ocean the same way as synthetic fibre does. However, it comes with its own problems. Cotton production uses a lot of water and pesticides, and it is often produced in countries where clean water is not accessible in the first place.

    Organic cotton is harvested without the use of GMOs, pesticides, insecticides or other harmful chemicals. Soil health is not being compromised, as rotations of crop happen regularly in order to increase the nutrients of the soil. In conventional systems, this is done by using fertilizers.

    As a result, organic cotton uses 91% less water than conventional cotton because it is grown in the natural system, which focuses on building soil fertility. Fertile soil can trap water better thereby preventing the washing away of nutrients.

    Organic cotton can also have significant, measurable environmental benefits compared to conventional cotton. It uses significant less energy, reduces pollution of waterways, and causes less greenhouse emissions and consequently less potential for acid rains.

    Currently, a small percentage of cotton produced worldwide is certified organic, according to the Textile Exchange.

    While any farmer can choose to grow organic cotton, or use organic cotton to make their products, labeling these products presents the first layer of complication.

    Brands do not have to be certified when they are using organic cotton, they can just claim it. However, many retailers choose to get the certification, which is a way to guarantee to their customers that what they said is correct.

    The certification also gives retailers assurance that the whole supply chain has met strict organic standards.

    Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

    The two main organic certifications are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Organic Content Standard (OCS). The two organic certifications ensure that the final cotton used is produced organically and the supply chain has been traced by third party independent bodies.

    The difference between GOTS and OCS is that GOTS also requires certain standards be met in the factory such as usage of low impact dyes, proper treatment of wastewater, and protection of social welfares for workers.

    Better Cotton Initiative (BCI cotton)

    BCI is a non-profit organization that educates farmers in making cotton production better globally while promoting decent working conditions. As a result, these farmers gain economic support through BCI members who have committed to these shared values by incorporating Better Cotton in their supply chains.

    BCI’s sustainability standards are nowhere near as strict as organic standards. Farmers can still use GMO seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides when growing cotton. However, the approach based on BCI is still more holistic as compared to conventional cotton production.

    b. Hemp

    Hemp is a natural and biodegradable fibre. It is a fast-growing plant (grows like a weed) that requires very little water and no herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or GMO seeds.

    The cultivation of hemp improves soil health by replenishing vital nutrients. This is definitely an added bonus for the environment.

    Hemp fabric has natural anti-microbial qualities and compared to other fabrics, it has the best heat capacity. It is hypoallergenic and non-irritating to the skin. The more you wash the fabric, the softer it gets. In fact, hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics currently available.

    c. Lotus

    Lotus fibre has long been used in countries such as Thailand or Myanmar for centuries for making fabrics. Lotus stems are harvested from lakes and the end of the stems are then sliced. The long and thin fibre from the centre is then pulled out, washed and hung to dry, and finally handwoven on looms into fabric.

    This process is quite time-consuming; however, the production process does not use any electricity, gas or toxic chemicals. The result of this is a luxurious fabric that feels like a combination of silk and raw linen. The lotus fabric is soft, silky, breathable, and is stain resistant.

    d. Nettle

    Nettle fabric is another sustainable cotton alternative as it is extremely versatile. It comes from the fibre within the stalks of the stinging nettle plant. This plant is a widely distributed plant that is easy to grow. Growing it on the steep slopes helps to prevent erosion. It also uses much less water and pesticides.

    In return, the plant stalks can be turned into a sustainable linen-like fabric but much stronger. Nettle fabric keeps the wearer cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

    Unlike cotton production, the production of the fabric is rather labor-intensive and is done by hand, therefore cutting down on chemicals, energy, pollution that are often involved in the production of other textiles.

    e. Linen

    Linen is another one of the oldest natural fibres in the world. It is made from flax, which is a very versatile plant. Similar to hemp, flax requires minimal water and pesticides and can be cultivated in poor-quality soil.

    Linen fibre is strong, naturally moth resistant, and when untreated (i.e. not dyed), it is fully biodegradable. In addition to being good for the planet, it is also light, can withstand high temperatures, absorb moisture, and is bacteria resistant.

    Bamboo

    Bamboo is a fast-growing plant and can be a very sustainable crop. It requires no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and need significantly less water than cotton during farming.

    Bamboo rayon fabric

    Bamboo as a raw material can be used to make bamboo rayon, which is known to feel soft and smooth on the skin and is also moisture- absorbent and quick drying.

    While bamboo uses way fewer chemicals and is more environmentally friendly during the cultivation phase, the same cannot be said about the manufacturing process when converting bamboo into bamboo rayon.

    Bamboo rayon is produced through an intensive chemical process known as the viscose process. The chemicals used in this process are highly toxic and pose risk to human health.

    Bamboo that is processed using the closed-loop lyocell process such as Monocel® uses less water and eliminates the use of toxic chemicals. The organic solvent used is recycled and reused. Selected dyeing and spinning mills are also certified according to the ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards, as well as Oeko-Tex 100, thereby making it a more sustainable alternative to the bamboo rayon.

    Bamboo hardwood

    Bamboo, in its hardwood form (that is when the form has not been manipulated drastically), is a sustainable material option. It can be used to make cutting boards, trays, utensils, and furniture, which could be otherwise be made from plastics, aluminum, and metal.

    The dense fibers in bamboo can give the plant extreme flexibility, allowing it to bend without breaking. The high silica content also leads to pest-resistant qualities.

    Mushroom Leather

    The most innovative way to produce mushroom leather currently is by exploiting a key feature of fungi, called mycelium – the underground root structure of a mushroom.

    The mushroom can be re-grown rapidly from its basic mycelium state to a specific size, texture, and shape by manipulating various conditions such as temperature, humidity, light, exchange of gas, and different types of agriculture waste feed for mycelium.

    Compared to animal leather, mushroom leather takes significantly less time to grow, not to mention fewer resources too, making it an eco-friendly alternative to animal leather.

    A few companies have already started this process. Below are some of the innovative biotech companies to look out for:

    Ecovative

    This is a New York-based biotech company. One of their most famous products includes packaging material made from growing mycelium feeding on agriculture byproduct of hemp. This mushroom packaging material can be grown in 9 days and is fully biodegradable. Other mushroom products developed by Ecovative are textiles, footwear and beauty products.

    MycoWorks

    California-based MycoWorks have been developing ways of turning mushrooms into building materials. By fusing wood together with mycelium, they have been able to create bricks that are fire-resistant and tougher than conventional concrete. Other products made from mycelium includes furniture, footwear, and leather products.

    Recycled materials

    Recycled materials give a second life to materials that are not biodegradable and hence, constitute a way of preventing post-consumer waste from ending up in the landfills.

    For example, the recycled polyester obtained by melting down existing plastic bottles and re-spinning it into new polyester fibre claims to require about 60% less energy compared to virgin polyester. It also reduces CO2 emissions, extraction of crude oils, and toxic emissions from incinerators.

    Some of the most commonly recycled materials are:

    • Recycled Polyester, recycled plastics or PET
    • Recycled Cotton
    • Recycled Cashmere
    • Recycled Rubber

    Although recycling sounds like an indisputably good idea, here are a couple of things to note:

    Degradation of quality

    Depending on what post-consumer product is used to produce the recycled material, the quality of the recycled material may not be the same as its virgin counterpart. For example, recycled cotton has shorter fibre lengths and is weaker. Therefore, it is usually spun with virgin cotton or polyester to improve the structural integrity and durability.

    Certifications of recycled content

    There is no way to verify that the recycled material is truly coming from pre or post-consumer products. Obtaining a third-party certification will prove your recycling efforts at a consumer level and help establish transparency and integrity of the supply chain.

    There are currently two primary certifications for recycled standards, which are:

    a) The Global Recycle Standard (GRS), administered by Textile Exchange, is intended to establish independently verified claims regarding the amount of recycled content in a yarn. It also prohibits certain chemicals, requires water treatment and upholding of workers’ rights.

    b) Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) is used as a chain of custody standard to track recycled raw materials through the supply chain. It serves a similar purpose to the GRS. However, the standard is less strict compares to GRS as it only requires a minimum of 5% recycled content to be claimed as a recycled product. Furthermore, RCS does not require chemical standards and social/environment requirements to be met and protected.

    Shufen LeeAbout Shufen Lee

    Shufen Lee has been residing in Toronto since 2007 and holds a BMath at the University of Waterloo.

    She is currently an independent research collaborator with Asiaimportal (HK) Limited.

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