Forests which become paper which becomes fabric. New ways to manufacture sustainable clothing are created when industrial sectors collaborate.
The BioInnovation project has led to completely new innovative solutions for making clothing out of paper derived from forest products.
Many parties and companies have been involved in the project. The provinces of Värmland and Dalsland are home to dense spruce and pine forests, which are processed and refined into paper by Nordic Paper and Ahlstrom-Munksjö paper mills.
The unbleached and locally grown paper is then shipped to the textile cluster in the Sjuhärad region, where it is spun into thread at SKS Textile and then transformed into fabrics in knitting machines at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås.
At Sjuhäradsbygdens Färgeri, the fabric is dyed a dark blue and finally fashioned into a supple gown by Smart Textiles at the University of Borås.
Recycling and the circular flow
“Textiles made of paper exist today, but what was unique about this project is that people have looked at the possibilities for recycling and challenged existing production and recycling techniques to achieve a circular flow”, says Lena-Marie Jensen, team leader of “Design for Recycling” and project coordinator of the focus area Sustainable Textiles at Smart Textiles.
“One of the major challenges has been to knit with paper yarn instead of weaving with it, because paper is a relatively inelastic material. It’s especially great to see collaboration emerge in a project with parties from different sectors, and I’m also looking forward to seeing prototypes for interior applications materialising in the project”, Jensen says.
Paper – a sustainable and locally grown raw material
The need for textile fibres is growing in step with rising living standards and population growth. The United Nations estimates a global population of 9.2 billion by 2050. As people increasingly move to cities and can afford to consume more, the need for sophisticated textiles also increases.
One conclusion to be drawn from the project is that we need to take care of the raw materials we have and reuse them. But there is also a need to supply new sustainable raw material that can be part of a circular flow.
The project demonstrates the importance of alternatives to cotton and synthetic fibres for more resource-efficient fibres and how choices in the design process affect the product’s environmental performance. Being able to solve future fibre needs requires many different solutions, where paper can be an alternative for some products. In addition, paper is a bio-based material in our immediate environment, and it can be part of a closed-loop system.