Differences Between a Natural Fibre and a New Innovative Fibre

This report will investigate and compare the differences between a natural fibre and a new innovative fibre. I will be discussing the properties of the natural bast fibre hemp, made from the Cannabis Sativa plant and the innovative fibre Piñatex, made from pineapple leaves. The use of hemp fabric has been traced back to 8,000 BC after archaeologists found remnants of hemp cloth in Iraq. Hemp then became popular in the 1980s after technologies were created to soften the fibres.

Piñatex was developed over seven years by Dr. Carmen Hijosa under the brand 'Ananas Anam' after she consulted on the Philippines leather export industry in the 1990s and saw the impact that the leather industry has on the environment. Piñatex is made from waste leaves of pineapple plants that are left behind after pineapple harvests. This report will discuss the production of each fibre, investigate the environmental impacts, suitability for use and identify any relevant associated certification bodies.

The aim is to uncover the differences between the two fibres, including the positives and negatives and discuss the overall impact of each fibre on the environment. I am hoping to find out which fibre uses the least amount of natural resources and how their production phase affects the overall sustainability of the fibre. Hemp Properties Hemp is a lightweight, woven fabric, making it highly breathable and ideal for hot climates as it will wick moisture easily. Hemp is made from long and sturdy fibres; this makes the handle soft. It is easy to dye and resistant to mildew and has antimicrobial properties. Hemp softens with each wash and does not shrink; the fibres will not degrade over time if looked after properly making hemp a good choice for garments if care level is maintained.

The downside to hemp is it is not colourfast in dark tones and most hemp fabrics are not treated with anti-wrinkle chemicals so creasing with wear may occur and can result in fibres breaking over time. Hemp is biodegradable and can be recycled if virgin fibres are added. Production The mechanical production of hemp fabric is organic and consists of harvesting the hemp plants then retting the plants, this process takes 4-6 weeks and is used to separate the hemp fibres from the bark.

The fibres are then separated into strands and are cleaned, the raw hemp fibres are then steamed and are ready to be spun into yarn and then woven into textiles. The chemical production uses the same process except enzymes and chemicals are used on the plants to speed up the retting process, this increases the amount of hemp fabric that can be produced and is much cheaper to make.

The dyeing process is dependant on each manufacturer.\n Environmental impacts Hemp is fast-growing and only takes about 70-90 days until the fibres are ready to be harvested. Unlike many other fibres, hemp returns 60-70% of its nutrients into the soil which helps to maintain the quality of the soil to allow for other hemp plants to grow properly. Hemp is also a carbon-negative material meaning it absorbs more carbon than it produces and uses few herbicides in production as hemp overgrows any competing plants. Hemp can grow with little irrigation and for comparison purposes, hemp uses half of the amount of land as cotton per tonne of finished textile.

Suitability for use The light weight of the fabric and the previously mentioned antimicrobial properties and wicking abilities make hemp suitable for any temperature and occasion. Hemp will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer and can protect the skin from UV rays. This fabric is suitable for dresses, skirts, tops, pants, underwear, and socks to name a few. Although care will need to be taken to ensure the garments are not left creased to maintain their quality. Certification bodies There are four main certification bodies for hemp. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can certify crops as organic, the European Union can also do this.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) can certify the fabric once it has been woven and dyed. To obtain this certification the fabric must be at least 70% organic and all dyes and other materials used but must meet environmental standards set out by GOTS. The organisation 'Ecocert' will certify the fabric as organic if at least 95% of the materials used are organic.\nPiñatex Properties Piñatex is a non-woven natural, leather alternative made from pineapple leaf waste. It is made with long fibres which create strong fabrics and is also coated with resin to increase strength, durability, and water resistance. It has been tested for strength and durability over time.

It is a thick fabric that is weather-resistant and scratch-resistant. Piñatex has a soft handle and is lightweight, flexible, and breathable. Production After the pineapple harvest, the leftover plant leaves are collected, and semi-automatic machines extract the fibres. These fibres are washed and dried by the sun or in drying ovens and are then purified to remove any dirt or impurities, this provides a fluff-like material. This material is then mixed with a polylactic acid made from corn and then undergoes a mechanical process which creates a non-woven mesh.

This mesh is then sent from the Philippines to Spain or Italy by boat to be dyed using a GOTS pigment and finished with a resin topcoat.\nEnvironmental impacts The production of Piñatex has a small impact on the environment as it is made from the waste product of the pineapple industry. The pineapple industry globally produces 13 million tonnes of waste a year, 40,000 tonnes are leftover pineapple leaves. As pineapple leaves are a waste product, Piñatex takes no extra water, land, fertilisers, or pesticides to make. Once the fibres are extracted from the leaves, they are then used for biofuel or as a natural fertiliser.

However, Piñatex do use a small amount of polyurethane which is not biodegradable, in their process. This process is also cruelty-free. Piñatex can be returned to the company to undergo controlled degradation and can also be recycled by shredding the fibres. Suitability for use Piñatex is strong and durable and has a similar texture and feel to leather. Therefore, it is mostly used for shoes, jackets, bags, wallets, and accessories like watch straps. It has been adopted by many brands such as H&M and is being used for jackets.

Certification bodies Piñatex has been certified by five organisations. The AFIRM group promotes chemical management within global supply chains and environmental health and safety, they have approved Piñatex. They are REACH compliant which is a regulation from the European Union, used to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals.

Piñatex is GOTS certified as they use GOTS-certified dyes and only use organic produce. Piñatex is also PETA approved and certified as vegan as no animals or animal products are used in the process of making the fabric. Compare and contrast Hemp and Piñatex are both very environmentally friendly as they both use little to no water consumption and their plants do not damage the soil. However, Piñatex has an environmental advantage as it uses a waste product, therefore it does not add any new materials into the environment to make the product whereas hemp has to be planted continually and quickly to keep up with the demand for hemp fabric.

As Piñatex is a fairly recent development, the price per metre is around AUD 110 which is very high compared to that of hemp which starts at around AUD 20. Piñatex is made by a small company, which makes it difficult to lower the prices, it also impacts how much product can be produced whereas hemp is made by many companies around the globe and has been in high demand over the last few years. The production of hemp can vary from manufacturer, which can impact the overall product. The dyeing process of hemp can vary greatly, one manufacturer could use all organic GOTS approved dyes but the next could use chemicals that are unsafe to humans and the environment and then the left over dye and water may be dumped into the towns water supply. This then becomes a social issue, as it affects the community living around the factory. If this affects the only water source for a community many can become ill because of the toxic chemicals used can kill wildlife and biodiversity, this is a really important factor when sourcing hemp fabric.

As Piñatex is made by a small company, they can be fully transparent, prove that their product is organic and map their circular supply chain. The materials for Piñatex are collected in the Philippines and then shipped by boat overseas whereas hemp is legally grown on nearly every continent in the world, hemp can be produced on a larger scale than Piñatex.

As Piñatex is only produced by Ananas Anam it seems to be more environmentally friendly as its supply chain can be mapped and all steps can be audited to ensure it is being produced ethically as it can be. Ananas Anam as a brand also makes sure they are creating jobs for people living in the Philippines, as using the pineapple waste has created a new source of income for the farming communities. Hemp can be manufactured in an environmentally friendly way when being grown but when it is sent to be made into a fibre the process is individual depending on who is manufacturing it.

Ananas Anam offer to take back the Piñatex product at its end of life as it needs to be assisted when being recycled, it will be shredded or undergo controlled degradation. Hemp is a natural fibre and will break down over time, it can be recycled but there are not many readily available options at the moment. Conclusion Overall, both fabrics have a small impact on the environment. Piñatex is very innovative in how the product is made and how waste is reduced throughout the process.

Ananas Anam has implemented a circular supply chain and this has helped to balance the negatives of producing new fibres with the positives of only using waste products to make the new product. Hemp can be environmentally friendly throughout the growing process, but it then depends on the manufacturer of the fabric to uphold a high standard and maintain the integrity of the fabric by using GOTS certified dyes and a mechanical process when removing fibres from the hemp plant. The dyeing of the fabric can become very water-intensive which then defeats the purpose of using hemp as it is only using a small amount of water to grow.

Piñatex is a good alternative to leather or any other current vegan leather alternatives as it as a small impact on the environment by using waste products instead of plastics and is easily recycled. Piñatex maintains a low environmental footprint throughout its lifecycle. Hemp is a strong and durable fabric that is suitable for many items of clothing and can withstand high and low temperatures. Its long history proves that hemp is a fibre that we should make use of more often considering its low environmental impact when compared to cotton.

Hemp and Piñatex both prove to be very environmentally friendly when compared to similar fabrics such as cotton and leather. There is still room for improvement for both fabrics, for example Piñatex could work towards finding a more environmentally friendly alternative for polyurethane. The hemp industry could set a global standard for how the hemp is extracted and then dyed, to maintain its low impact on the environment. Overall both fabrics have a low environmental impact and are good alternatives.