Home Fashion Styles Israeli vegan ‘tech-style’ startup making clothes using algae

Israeli vegan ‘tech-style’ startup making clothes using algae

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Written by Rebecca Cairns, CNN

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The global fashion industry employs millions and is worth trillions. It also accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and creates pollution and waste: in the US, just 15% of textiles are recycled, while the rest are incinerated or sent to landfill.That’s why one Israeli startup is creating a biodegradable, non-toxic, and low-energy textile — using algae. Algaeing’s CEO Renana Krebs said that the algae formula can be used for natural fibers and dyes, and requires less water than traditional products. It also produces zero waste and polluting.

The company hopes to “harness the power of renewable algae to create a real, genuine impact against climate change,”She said.

A green solution

Algae (which includes seaweed) is already being used for other industries. Food and pharmaceuticals as well as biofuel sectors are all looking at this group of aquatic organisms to be a sustainable material.

Krebs saw a chance to apply algae to textiles. After 15 years working in the fashion industry, Krebs saw firsthand the industry’s pollution and waste. She quit her job in 2014 to start Algaeing in 2016.

Algatech, another Israeli company that grows algae indoors in seawater, supplies the algae. “vertical farms”They run on solar power. It does not require the use of fertilizer, which is a big advantage over cotton.

Algaeing developed a patented formula that is algae-based at its Israel lab. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay/Algaeing

Algaeing converts the algae into a liquid that can be used to dye or made into textiles when it is combined with cellulose, a natural plant fiber. Clothing manufacturers can use Algaeing’s proprietary recipe.

Other companies are also seeing the potential for algae in textiles. Vollebak, a men’s apparel brand, has developed a biodegradable T-shirt made of eucalyptus pulp and beech pulp. It can be buried in the ground and then breaks down to become compostable. “worm food”AlgiKnit, the startup developing a yarn-like wool from seaweed, is completing its 12 week development.

Krebs said that Algaeing’s main focus is on changing the supply chains and that the company is preparing to commercially launch its patented technology in 2022.

Redesigning fashion industry

Up to 2,700 liters of freshwater is required to produce the cotton for a regular t-shirt, according to one WWF estimate — which is equivalent to one person’s drinking water for two years, said Krebs. She said that Algaeing’s fibers reduced water use by 80%. However, textile workers are often exposed to toxic chemicals and heavy metals. But the algae-based dye is non-toxic and allergen-free — which is also a plus for consumers.

“Algaeing and Renana [Krebs] are addressing three key pain points of the fashion industry: the reliance on freshwater to grow fibers; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and also dyeing textiles; and thirdly, energy use.”

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Erik Bang, Innovation Lead, H&M Foundation

Although algal-based fibers tend to be more expensive than traditional fibers like cotton at the moment, Krebs stated that they add value to the brand because they are sustainable and ethical.

The fashion industry is entrenched in tradition — but it’s also ripe for disruption, according to Erik Bang, innovation lead for the H&M Foundation, a non-profit that is privately funded by the founders and main owners of the H&M Group, and supports young fashion startups.

Bang stated that over the past five year, fashion’s sustainability awareness has steadily increased and that it is attracting more attention. “new types of investors”With diverse backgrounds in technology, material science, and biochemistry.

Its dyes and textiles are biodegradable, non-toxic and vegan.

Its dyes are non-toxic, biodegradable, and vegan. Credit: Courtesy Tammy Bar Shay/Algaeing

Algaeing was awarded the H&M Foundation Global Change Award 2018 for its work with algae. “brilliant potential source”Bang said that future textile fibers will be made from these materials.

“Algaeing and Renana [Krebs] are addressing three key pain points of the fashion industry: the reliance on freshwater to grow fibers; the use of chemicals, both in pesticides for growing fibers and also dyeing textiles; and thirdly, energy use,” Bang said.

He also stated that, while consumer behavior is changing it’s still costly for the industry to invest and scale up sustainable technologies. “We need legislators to change the playing field, and tilt it so much more in the favor of circular and sustainable practices, and punish the old habits,”Bangs.

Beyond fashion

Algaeing initially was focused on creating new fashion fabrics. However, the pandemic presented another opportunity. Algaeing began to work with Avgol, an Avgol nonwoven textile manufacturer that specializes in hygiene, medical, PPE products.

Krebs stated that the pandemic has shown businesses that adapting to new challenges is crucial for survival. While the recent challenge has been Covid-19, the bigger, long-term challenge is climate change — and that’s where Krebs hopes Algaeing can make a difference.

“We are creating a new generation, a new category of products,”Krebs.

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