The first garment made from tree-free rayon

The Australian-based company Nanollose created the world’s first wearable garment using a tree-free version of rayon, made using microbes that convert biomass waste products into microbial cellulose.

Rayon is a fibre made from cellulose predominantly derived from wood-pulp. However, the production process of this fabric is not very sustainable. For one, considerable amounts of trees are cut down and chipped. The wood is then treated with hazardous chemicals, including carbon disulphide, which is highly toxic, to make rayon.

Nanollose’s Nullarbor tree-free rayon is derived using microbes that convert biomass waste products like, in this case, coconut waste. The microbes naturally ferment the waste products into cellulose, a cotton-like raw material. The microbial cellulose is then converted into rayon fibres using the company’s own technology, which is compatible with existing industry processing and manufacturing equipment. The process takes 18 days and requires very little land, water and energy.

Using this material, Nanollose now created what they say is the world’s first wearable garment from tree-free rayon. The sweater marks a breakthrough for the clothing industry, which desperately needs alternative and sustainable materials.

“We didn’t have to cut down any trees to create this sweater, and we have now demonstrated that our Tree-Free Rayon fibre can be used in the same way as other commonly-used fibres to make clothing and textiles, without the hefty environmental footprint,” Alfie Germano, Nanollose’s managing director, said.

To ensure Nanollose can supply future partners with commercial qualities of fibre, the company is developing a supply chain within an ecosystem around waste from the Indonesian coconut industry (along with waste streams from other industries), and aims to significantly increase fibre production over the next months.

Photo: Nanollose