Biosynthetics: When Synthetic Doesn’t Mean Plastic

A new gen of synthetics is emerging made from plants, waste and algae rather than oil. Is this the solution to fashion's pollution and climate crisis? Learn more in this quick guide.

Traditionally, most synthetic fibres are derived from fossil fuels, and as such, their production and end of life has a detrimental effect on the environment. The fact that polyester accounts for over 60% of global fibre consumption, combined with the urgency to avert catastrophic climate change and halt plastic pollution, means that it makes perfect sense that renewable alternatives are becoming big business.

Biosynthetics are emerging as a preferred fibre because they provide many of the benefits that a petroleum based synthetic fibre does, without the same negative impact on the environment.

So what exactly are biosynthetics? 

Essentially, they are fibres and materials made from renewable resources rather than fossil fuels.

They aren’t necessarily biodegradable, though some are, but part of their production - growing crops such as sugar cane, corn, wheat and grass - absorbs CO2 from the environment, and they can often be recycled.

However, there are concerns, including the fact that many fibres will be a mix of biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials, which will need to be separated before composting (where possible) or recycling, and the use of genetically modified corn as a source.

Who's using biosynthetic fabrics?

Another reason that biosynthetics are particularly appealing though, is that they can be used for stretch fabrics such as activewear and swimwear, as well as trainers (Allbirds uses a sugar cane-based “rubber” sole, for example) - and that’s something we all know the consumer can’t get enough of.

To find out more about the science behind biosynthetics, as well as suppliers, head to this handy microsite from Textile Exchange.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest
Notices from our PRO members