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Pineapple Leather Could Be the Next IT Material

Curious to try an all-vegan diet this year? Just don’t forget to extend that healthy resolution to your closet as well. Vegan fashion might not be a new concept, but innovative materials made from oranges, pineapples and bananas are all the rage right now. Ahead, we explore how designers are getting more than just a smoothie out of the humble pineapple.

Key Takeaways: Best out of waste

Last year, the Spanish city of Seville became an environmentally-friendly role model when it began turning its leftover oranges into clean energy to power a water purification plant. In similar vein, material pioneers like Piñatex® are turning pineapples waste into leather for fashion. 

Piñatex® leather is derived from the unwanted leaves of pineapples. A natural by-product of the pineapple harvest, these leaves don’t rely on additional environmental resources to be produced specifically for the leather. After pineapple harvest, waste plant leaves are collected in bundles and long fibres are extracted through semi-automatic machines. The resulting fibres are then washed and dried naturally, after which they go through a cleansing process to remove any impurities — the outcome of which is a fluff-like material. This fluff-like pineapple leaf fibre (PALF) is then mixed with a corn-based polylactic acid (PLA) after which it undergoes a mechanical process to create a non-woven mesh called Piñafelt. 

Rolls of Piñafelt are then shipped from the Philippines (the home of Piñatex®) to Spain or Italy for specialised finishing where its dyed using GOTS certified pigments and a resin top coating is applied to give additional strength, durability and water resistance.

The final product is biodegradable leather that has a crinkly appearance similar to an elephant’s skin, available in a wide range of colours.

Today thousands of brands, including the likes of Hugo Boss, Stella McCartney and Chanel are using this innovative fibre for their leather goods. But, how well do revolutionary materials like pineapple leather measure up when it comes to sustainability? 

The sustainable factor

Integrated into the circular economy, pineapple leather is made from leftover leaves of the pineapple plant, which would otherwise be discarded or burned. Once the fibre has been extracted from the leaves, the leftover biomass is retained to use as a natural fertiliser or bio-fuel. Furthermore, Piñatex® supports rural farming communities by working directly with farming cooperatives to create an additional stream of income for pineapple farmers who would otherwise only rely on a seasonal harvest.

Problematic and unethical, the conventional leather industry is resource-intensive and can leave behind a rather large carbon footprint.

In order to keep making animal-derived leather goods, the fashion industry would have to slaughter 430m cows annually within the next 4 years. Fossil-fuel based PVC leather is not the vegan alternative either.

With its closed-loop production process and natural waste integration, pineapple leather has the upper hand when it comes to sustainable vegan leather alternatives.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-12-29

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