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NZ's The Formary turns fibre waste into viable textiles
Feb '12
The Formary, Wellington, New Zealand-based company, is in the forefront of transforming waste fibre into new viable textile products. In collaboration with domestic and international design and manufacturing companies, the company looks for waste fibres that can be used for mainstream commercialization.

The company got a boost when in 2010, coffee giant Starbucks said it would use its WoJo® fabric to upholster chairs at its new stores. The fabric is developed by the New Zealand firm using jute from recycled coffee sacks, which is woven with wool. Subsequently, the company has licensed several weaving mills to manufacture and sell WoJo fabric.

Speaking about eco-friendly viable textiles of The Formary, its Director Ms. Bernadette Casey, said, “Our fabrics are all created as solutions to specific problems. For instance, we were asked by Starbucks store design team, if we could find a solution that would allow them to use their waste jute coffee sacks within their cafes. Their issue had been the shedding of fibres from the coffee sacks.”

“Secondly, our crop waste fabrics are developed to address the problem of our growing global population. As the population grows, more pressure is put on arable land for food supply. Growing virgin textile crops may not be the best use of this land, so we turned our focus to how we can re-use the vast amount of crop fibre that is currently going to waste; fibre that could be used to make viable textiles,” she adds.

Informing about the use of recycled coffee sacks, she says, “While virgin jute and wool had been blended before, no one had thought of blending used coffee sacks with wool, perhaps because of their perceived disparate qualities.”

“Our first hurdle was finding weavers willing to put dirty old sacks down their pristine wool lines. However, the fabric has turned out to be so successful that we now have a number of weavers licensed to manufacture WoJo®,” Ms. Casey reveals.

Continuing further, she says, “As you can imagine, Starbucks go through a huge number of coffee sacks so we needed to create several solutions for them. The second product we created is CoJac™ - a hard wearing canvas, made from used coffee sacks blended with recycled cotton from fashion cutting floors. It is a wonderful product perfect for bags, caps, aprons and interior products such as window blinds.”

Elaborating on how The Formary's inventions help the cause of environment, she says, “As coffee is the second highest traded commodity, there are vast amounts of used coffee sacks available globally. WoJo® and CoJac™ are solutions to this vast amount of fibre. We license weavers around the world to manufacture our products. By up cycling this waste product into desirable fabrics, we reduce the amount of viable fibre going into land fill.

Talking about the level of awareness among consumers as well as textile manufacturers with respect to sustainability and eco-friendly business practices, she says, “Public awareness is growing and people are becoming more mindful of the products they are selecting and the impact that they may have. People are now aware of what synthetics are made from, they are aware that there is a high energy component of re-extruding synthetic fibres. They are also aware through programs like Levis' Waterless program of the issues around textile production.”

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