Sustainable apparel fabric suppliers are taking advantage of a remarkable new source of material: agricultural waste, the discarded byproducts from the cultivation of orange, banana, sugarcane, and other crops.

Food crop agriculture creates a tremendous amount of waste in the form of the parts of the plants that are not consumed: fruit peels, leaves, stalks, etc. All of this material has been going to waste, either burned or left to rot, to the detriment of the environment.

Now, however, a number of companies are opting for a circular economy, recycling agricultural waste to create beautiful new sustainable fabrics.

Take Circular Systems for example, a startup founded by fashion industry veteran Isaac Nichelson, the inventor of the patented Agraloop technology. Agraloop takes agricultural wastes from crops like bananas, pineapples, flax, hemp, and sugarcane, and spins them into a natural fibre which can in turn be made into fabric.

Technologies like Agraloop are changing the sustainable fabric industry in ways that seem surreal until one understands the logic. Plant parts contain fibres, and agricultural residue represents a tremendous source of fibres which would otherwise go to waste.

Consider the five crops mentioned above: bananas, pineapples, flax, hemp, and sugarcane. Between them, these five crops generate an estimated 250 million tons of fibre every year, enough to meet the global demand for fibre 2.5 times over.

What kind of textiles can one make from agricultural waste? As it turns out, some very high-quality ones.

Consider Orange Fiber, a Sicilian-based designer which converts citrus juice by-products into exquisite sustainable fabrics. Invented by Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena while the two were flat-mates at the Polytechnic of Milan, Orange Fiber's signature textile is made by recycling the cellulose from the fibres that are discarded from the pressing and the processing of whole oranges to make orange juice.

Orange Fiber has great potential for a plenitude of uses, from fashion to home textiles, and it is beginning to get some serious attention. The fabric has already won several awards at both the national and the international level, including the UNECE Ideas for Change Award in April 2015.

Additionally, Taiwanese actress, model, and sustainability influencer Chiling Lin sported an Orang Fiber gown at the Global Change Award 2018.

Like Orange Fiber, Green Whisper is converting agricultural wastes into beautiful fabric. The company specialises in converting banana fibre from agricultural residue into textiles, but they also use sugarcane, areca, and before long, maize, wheat, and rice as well. 

Green Whisper's philosophy is based on the Sanskrit Indian concept of Djiva, meaning one who is born twice. This is the essence of what Green Whisper does: converting agricultural residue which would otherwise be wasted into beautiful fabric, and thereby making the world a better place.