Innovation @ E2Expo

Seawater plants based textile fabrics and accessories

Updated : December 2020

Stakeholders

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Financial investors
  • Marketing or sales professionals
  • Researchers or innovators
  • Textile and fashion designers
  • Textile fiber cultivation professional
  • Textile industry sustainability professionals

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.

Read more: SaltyCo's seawater based fabric cultivation and production

Topics

Sea water plants for textiles

Textile fibre freshwater conservation

Planet healing salt marsh plant textiles

Read More

  1. SaltyCo's seawater based fabric cultivation and production

Company/Organization

SaltyCo

Geography

| United Kingdom

Year Established

2020

Highlights and sustainability benefits

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.

Recognition

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.

About the Work

Salt marshes are some of the most planet-healing spaces in the world. Farming their salt-tolerant plants in these environments enables them to offer optimum sustainable accolades. By using their innovative fibre extraction process, the company ensures sustainability throughout the process value chain.

About the Innovator

SaltyCo has provided innovation to reduce water consumption in clothing production. The concept of developing a textile produced from salt-tolerant plants grown using seawater, came to light when Julian Ellis-Brown, Neloufar Taheri, Finlay Duncan and Antonia Contreras from the Royal College of Art, came together for a group research course. After four months in development, gaining feedback and interest from people in the industry, they entered the Imperial Enterprise Lab’s Venture Catalyst Challenge 2020 and received a £10,000 grant to assist in the development of their sustainable textile.


Discussion topics

Potential for marine plants for producing textile fiber

Discuss

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=ynTEhq0ETNk

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Environmental benefits of salt marshes and seawater plants

Discuss

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

The link to the above info: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/saltmarsh.html

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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=44KeOKv8DG0

Reply

Suitable end use fashion products from salt water plant based fibres

Discuss

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.

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