March 9, 2021

Can agricultural food waste be transformed into textiles?

5 min read

The answer is “yes”. At least according to Circular Systems and its newly developed Agraloop Biofibre, which is entirely made of plant-based fibers, spun from agricultural crop waste.

This fiber is made by recycling waste that is often burned or left to rot. This “trash” is then transformed into a cottonized bio-fiber. US company Circular Systems has developed an innovative technology that in three years is now being adopted worldwide by apparel brands as it is an affordable, scalable and consumer-friendly sustainable alternative to regular natural and synthetic fibers. In December 2020, H&M launched its first H&M Conscious Exclusive collection using this fiber.

Isaac Nichelson, CEO and co-founder at Circular Systems SPC, explained how this fiber could help kick off a bio-industrial economy and regenerate our habitat.

Isaac Nichelson, CEO and co-founder at Circular Systems SPC

Isaac Nichelson, CEO and co-founder at Circular Systems SPC

What is Agraloop Biofibre all about?
Agraloop technology transforms low-value agricultural waste into high-value new natural fiber called Agraloop Biofibre.
With our patent-pending process the Agraloop processes a range of inputs–including oilseed hemp, oilseed flax, wheat, rice, corn, pineapple leaves, banana trunks and more—that can be used to create natural Biofibre applied to yarn and textiles for the fashion industry.
Additionally, the Agraloop produces a range of co-products, including bio-energy to power the mill and local community and organic soil amendments to go back to the farm to support the fertility cycle.

When was it invented?
Ideation began in 2006. In 2018 we launched the Agraloop Technology 1.0 and obtained a cotton-biofiber (different from viscose). In 2019, it made its debut at the Global Change Awards, in an elegant hemp Biofibre and silk gown by &Other Stories worn by Bandana Tewari, lifestyle editor and sustainable activist. In Q4 2020, we reached a new milestone with our technology by executing successful trials at our new pilot facility in Belgium which included an upgrade in waste water processing that allows us to capture the positive, beneficial effluents to be brought back to the farm. We also completed a third party LCA with SCS and SAC. You can now find Agraloop on the HIGG index with a score for our Oilseed Hemp BioFibre.

Who is behind Agraloop Biofibre?
Agraloop Biofibre is Patent Pending IP that is owned by Circular Systems SPC. The technology was invented by the chief technology officer and co-founder of Circular Systems, Yitzac Goldstein. Circular Systems is a materials science company focused on creating a net positive impact on our environment, society and economy through innovation. Our circular plus regenerative technologies provide systemic solutions for transforming waste into valuable fiber, yarn and fabrics.

How can it be used?
It can replace cotton, polyester and other fibers in most textile and industrial applications.
Agraloop Biofibre is cottonized fiber made to run in existing open-end and ring spinning systems. It is not a viscose product, but a highly refined 100% natural fiber made from oilseed and nutraceutical hemp residues.
We blend our cottonized oilseed hemp Biofibre with other natural fibers, including recycled and organic cotton, and Tencel Lyocell. Product applications include knit and woven textiles for clothing, footwear, accessories and durable home goods.

In addition to providing Biofibre for the fashion industry, Agraloop can also produce excess bio-chemistry, organic fertilizer and fiber for non-wood paper & packaging, bio-composites and building materials.

How can food waste used for fashion?

How can food waste used for fashion?

Where are these food crop leftovers collected?
This leftover biomass from food crop production is collected at the farm level on a global and regional basis. We presently source Oilseed Hemp and CBD Hemp in both China and Europe, and are now beginning sourcing in the Americas. Pineapple is presently sourced in South China and will expand to Mexico and Central America in 2022. Agave will also be sourced in Mexico in 2022.

What are this fiber’s strong points?
The bast and leaf fibers that are extracted are naturally stronger than cotton, and have inherent bio-static (they stay fresh longer and prevent the growth of microbes on the surface of the fiber), and thermodynamic (cool when its warm, warm when its cool, like wool or silk) properties. Additionally environmental and social benefits are many, including CO2 reduction via the prevention of burning and rotting crop waste, CO2 draw down/sequestration and soil building via the return of organic and inorganic carbon to farms which is the waste effluent of the Agraloop. The Agraloop has been called a “Carbon Draw-Down Machine” that builds soil and soil fertility in the process.
Along with all of these pluses, Agraloop also offers socioeconomic benefits for farming communities in the form of commoditizing waste that is presently a liability to farmers and the environment.

The Agraloop fiber is made by recycling waste. This “trash” is then transformed into a cottonized bio-fiber.

The Agraloop fiber is made by recycling waste. This “trash” is then transformed into a cottonized bio-fiber.

What are it weak points?
There are no disadvantages to Agraloop Biofibre as it can be applied to all product categories, and can be finished, laundered and maintained with traditional methods. Agraloop Biofibre generally has more dye uptake than cotton, so very colorfast and lustrous dye color is achieved with resulting fabrics.

How is the fashion industry reacting to its launch?
Agraloop Biofibre is in high demand from many of the world’s largest sportswear brands, fast fashion retailers and luxury fashion houses alike. 


Is it more expensive than other fibers?

Agraloop Biofibre is not a commodity, and is still produced at small scale, so it is naturally more expensive than conventional cotton or polyester. It does compete with other conventional bast fibers like hemp or linen.

Where is Agraloop produced?
China, and soon to launch in the EU and Americas.

What brands that are starting to offer products made with Agraloop Biofibre?
Legally, we can’t announce all brands as some are still in development phase. 
Circular Systems just had an amazing Agraloop launch with H&M in their fall/winter 2020 Conscious Exclusive collection and is scaling into their women’s line for spring 2021.
We also continue to collaborate with the Nike NXT team to measure and scale iterations of impact surrounding Agraloop.
Arvin Goods launched Agraloop socks in December 2020, and we are dreaming up more knit applications with their team for 2021. 
Circular Systems is also planning an entire special Agraloop collection with Madewell for 2021.

A blazer of H&M's Conscious Collection using Agraloop

A blazer of H&M’s Conscious Collection using Agraloop

Can these fibers be used for every apparel or accessory category? Can they be used for jeans too?
Agraloop Biofibre can be used for all product categories, and also has very specific relevance to denim applications. We might see its employ in the jeanswear market available within the next 12 to 24 months.

Can this fiber set the future in fashion, apparel and textiles?
By winning the Global Change Award 2018 with Agraloop Biofibre is already defining the future of fashion and sportswear due to its regenerative environmental impacts, high quality and high performance.

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