Seaweed fiber could revolutionize the fashion industry if AlgiKnit has its way.
Founded in 2017, AlgiKnit is a biomaterials company based in Brooklyn.
They focus on producing sustainable textiles made from seaweed fiber.
The biofiber they are developing is made from a type of seaweed known as kelp.
Last March, they raised $2.4 million and began scaling up the production of seaweed fiber in Triangle Park, North Carolina.
AlgiKnit believes the natural biofibers could become an ecologically sustainable textile for an industry that employs 300 million people worldwide.
Fast fashion’s ugly little secret
Most people have not yet heard about fast fashion’s frightful hidden impact on the environment.
Recent studies are exposing the unexpected, shocking role that clothing plays in polluting the oceans.
Because acrylic, polyester, and nylon are lightweight and cheap, these synthetics are the preferred textile of the fast fashion industry.
Synthetic fibers are used to make 60% of the clothes we wear.
But unfortunately, synthetic fibers shed easily into the water each time clothing is washed.
A team at Plymouth University in the UK found that a single washload of acrylic clothing releases nearly 730,000 tiny synthetic particles per wash.
The cumulative effect of this shedding is staggering.
Research released this December by The Ocean Race reported 83% of the microplastic pollution of Europe’s oceans is from microfibers.
Seaweed Fiber – why kelp?
Algiknit is using kelp to develop a lightweight, versatile biofiber that can be used to make clothing, accessories, and footwear.
AlgiKnit has chosen to focus on producing this particular form of seaweed fiber because:
- Kelp grows in the underwater forests of the ocean. It is one of the fastest-growing, regenerative organisms on earth.
- Like all seaweed, kelp is eco-friendly. It doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides to grow.
- Kelp thrives in saltwater – it requires no freshwater or irrigation. And it doesn’t use arable land.
- All seaweed is naturally biodegradable.
Additionally, seaweed, including kelp, is very efficient at sequestering carbon and filtering surrounding water.
And coastal communities currently affected by overfishing and pollution can easily farm kelp. Likewise, kelp farming offers an ecological source of income and while improving marine habitats.
Why it matters
As for other sectors, the race is on to find a solution to the problem of oceanic microfiber pollution.
Some countries are considering following France’s law that will require washing machines to be fitted with a microfiber filter beginning in 2025.
Others are examining fitting wastewater treatment facilities with better mirco-particle filters.
But while these solutions are debated, fast fashion production continues to accelerate.
Mckinsey & Co. reports that fashion production doubled between 2000 and 2014.
Additionally, the American Chemical Society estimates worldwide clothing production will triple by 2050.
With such dramatic growth and such an outsized role in ocean pollution, finding alternative sources of clothing material has become critical.
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Biomaterial companies such as Algiknit could provide the breakthrough that would help mitigate a major source of microplastic pollution.
What if we treated every new clothing purchase like a tattoo purchase?
With the understanding that it’s essentially a permanent decision since a thrown-away t-shirt isn’t really going “away.”
Whitney Buck @unwrinkling (retweet)
For more about AlgiKnit
AlgiKnit is making clear headway in the direction of commercializing a revolutionary new product.
Forbes recently selected co-founders Tessa Callaghan and Aleks Gosiewski to the “30 under 30 Manufacturing and Industry” class of 2022.
In addition, you can find more information on AnlgiKnit on their website, along with their social media accounts: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
Feature image credit: Chelsea Cameron – Shutterstock
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