Today, 350 million people worldwide risk losing access to freshwater. Our use of this resource is unsustainable and is only getting worse. One major consumer is the textiles industry where freshwater is used extensively in the production of fabrics. SaltyCo. grows salt-tolerant plants by irrigating them with seawater. The plants are then harvested and their fibres are extracted before being manufactured into a variety of natural textile offerings. This enables us to pioneer the worlds first woven, non-woven and stuffing products that are completely freshwater-free.
SaltyCo. designs and produces natural, freshwater-free textiles for the fashion industry. We have now developed three prototype products:
• A yarn for woven fabrics
• A non-woven suitable for accessories
• A stuffing with impressive insulating properties
Each of the above products are vegan friendly, have a low carbon impact and critically, use no freshwater in their production. But why is this useful for the SaltyCo. business?
In a nutshell, textiles produced today use far more freshwater than is sustainable.
Contemporary textiles can be categorised into two groups: natural or synthetic, both use huge amounts of water in their production and combined add up to 10% of all industrial water usage.
Only 3% of the world's water is freshwater, whilst the other 97% is held in our saltwater oceans. By 2050, the UN estimates that this 3% will only be enough for 60% of our global population.
SaltyCo. asked a simple question: "How could we take advantage of the abundance of seawater in the making of textiles?" This subsequently lead us to halophytes. Halophytes are a family of salt-tolerant plants that can be found all over the world from deserts to coastal marshes. SaltyCo. grows these plants before extracting their fibres to make natural textile products.
We tested our products for physical properties to validate our materials and benchmark them against existing textiles. For example, we carried out a thermal conductivity test on our stuffing product and found this to be a medium-to high level insulator compared with current market leaders in insulation. From these validations we feel confident in our textile's ability to act as alternatives to freshwater consuming products.
If we were to produce seawater textiles on an industrial scale, what would this look like?
A natural textile supply chain typically has 9 main components: farming; fibre extraction; textile manufacturing; warehouse and fulfilment; distribution; retailer; sales; use; disposal and recycling. SaltyCo.'s role will be in the farming, fibre extraction and textile manufacturing steps. In the future we would look to introduce a recycling element to make a closed loop organic textile system.
The farming process we will use is a method of saline agriculture. Saline agriculture is a farming industry in its infancy that is starting to be used to grow salt-tolerant crops for food and fodder, but never before for textiles. The crops would then be harvested using conventional methods. Subsequently, depending on the crop and product, our plants would go through fibre extraction processes, and finally into manufacturing.
We believe SaltyCo.'s products show real potential in being able to compete in the textile market place while meeting our own and global sustainable values and customer demands. Furthermore, we believe that alongside the classification of natural and synthetic textiles currently available, SaltyCo. can introduce a new category: seawater textiles.
In future, not only can you choose carbon neutral, Fairtrade and vegan, but for the first time ever, you can choose freshwater-free.