The clothing industry isn’t generally known for its sustainability, but many brands are starting to turn to more environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo, organic cotton, or recycled plastic. Australia-based biotechnology company Nanollose is going a step further by developing plant-free cellulose from “industrial organic and agricultural waste products.” The cellulose can then be turned into a sustainable rayon fiber, providing an alternative to plant-based fabrics.

Nanollose, or microbial cellulose created with the company’s technology, is a plant-free cellulose created “by a non-hazardous and non-infectious bacterium in a biological system,” according to Nanollose’s website. Microbial cellulose is made through natural fermentation and doesn’t need sunshine, land, pesticides, fertilizers or big quantities of water. Microbes transform “biomass waste products from beer, wine, and liquid food industries” into microbial cellulose in their process. New Atlas reported that Nanollose currently draws on coconut byproducts sourced from Indonesia for the project’s pilot phase, although they aim to utilize waste from large industries when they begin full-scale production.

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From that microbial cellulose, the company can produce what they believe is “the world’s first plant-free viscose-rayon fiber,” which they’re calling Nullarbor. Some potential applications are in athleisure, shirts, dresses, sportswear, and home furnishings. Nanollose said in a December press release that numerous companies have expressed interest in their technology. They launched the plant-free viscose-rayon fiber at the Planet Textiles Summit in Canada earlier this week.

Nanollose CEO Alfie Germano told New Atlas he became aware of the environmental concerns troubling the textile and apparel industry during his 30-year career. He said in a company statement, “The entire industry is experiencing a green wind of change that is customer-driven, and many global players are stepping up their search for sustainable, long-term fiber alternatives, and we believe we have a solution.”

Plant-free viscose-rayon fiber from Nanollose

Check out the Nanollose website for more information.

+ Nanollose

Via New Atlas

Images courtesy of Nanollose

Microbial cellulose sample by Nanollose being handled by two hands in latex gloves