Seawater plants based textile fabrics and accessories - Innovation @ E2Expo
Updated : December 2020
Salt tolerant plants for sustainable textiles
Growing sustainability issues in textiles have led to many researchers and companies finding new natural raw materials. An interdisciplinary team of students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art have found a way to make fabrics from plants grown in seawater. The fabrics are made from a salt-tolerant plant that thrives in seawater.
After a successful period of trialling, the team is planning to launch three different textile products - woven fabric, a non-woven fabric and a technical stuffing.
The stuffing is the closest to being market-ready and has already been showcased as part of a jacket and SaltyCo has also showcased their non-woven fabric being used for accessories and faux leathers.
The process involves sustainable raw materials and chemicals which naturally degrade in the environment. Using seawater plants also reduces the need for freshwater for textile fibre cultivation.
SaltyCo is a finalist in the Imperial Enterprise Lab Venture Catalyst Challenge 2020. The student led start-up has been featured in numerous publications such as dezeen, Vogue, Lampoon, GQ, etc. They have also showcased their innovative textile cultivation process and products at the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Vogue Italia Yoox, Milan Design Week and The Design Museum amongst others.
A Wikipedia article says that at least 4.5 million hectares of salt marshes have been mapped across 43 countries - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_marsh#:~:text=2017.,(2.2%E2%80%9340%20Mha).
Even conservatively assuming a ton of biomass per hectare per year, we are talking about 5 million tons of biomass that can be used, and assuming a 20% conversion to the final product, 1 million tons of the final product. It is difficult to put a $ figure to it, but if we conservatively assume $10000 per ton of final product ($10 per Kg), we are talking about a total monetary potential of $10 billion.Reply
Some useful videos that provide details on the plants and their characteristics inhabiting salt marshes
Saltmarsh plants that grow on the mosquito impoundment dikes at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida, USA - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-0D0WWoGX0
Salt marsh habitat - take a virtual, hands on (should we say feet on) tour of a salt marsh and get to know what grows and lives there - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynTEhq0ETNkReply
Here are the ecological and social benefits of salt marshes, as explained by US National Ocean Service:
"These intertidal habitats are essential for healthy fisheries, coastlines, and communities—and they are an integral part of our economy and culture. They also provide essential food, refuge, or nursery habitat for more than 75 percent of fisheries species, including shrimp, blue crab, and many finfish.
Salt marshes also protect shorelines from erosion by buffering wave action and trapping sediments. They reduce flooding by slowing and absorbing rainwater and protect water quality by filtering runoff, and by metabolizing excess nutrients."Reply
And here are some excellent videos on salt marshes that will give us a visual idea of what they are, as well as the ecological benefits that they bring with them
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HXyTMnj7ac - this is from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, a 6 min educational video
This video from Cambridge University tells us how salt marshes act as a first line of defence against storm surge waves, reducing storm water levels and the run up of waves on landward sea defences - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9m7vAdqsWc
Can a salt marsh be built? Yes. And this video from EstuaryLive TV shows how - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44KeOKv8DG0Reply
Not sure about fibers, but looks like there's good research on how to turn salt water loving plants (halophytes) to bio-active materials to be used in food, pharma, nutraceutials and biofuels. This link could be of interest - Type in Google "Glassworts: From Wild Salt Marsh Species to Sustainable Edible Crops" and look for this link under MDPI Series.
Something seems to be brewing in these salt water plants, we think.Reply