A new era of sustainable fashion has begun with the debut of the world’s first garment made using biological recycling (using plastic-eating enzyme to break plastic), a revolutionary technology that transforms plastic waste into new polyester. The parka jacket, designed by British Fashion Designer, Stella McCartney and Protein Evolution, was unveiled at COP28, the UN climate change conference, to showcase how artificial intelligence and biology can create circular and low-carbon solutions for the fashion industry. It will feature soft natural tones and reference parachute models that have appeared in the British brand’s collections, combining a sustainable and sporty attitude. This jacket serves as a proof of concept highlighting innovation in textile circularity.
The jacket is made from fabric that was produced by breaking down rigid packaging and industrial textile waste into their raw ingredients, without the need for fossil fuels. The process, called Biopure, is capable of handling various waste streams, from plastic bottles to industrial textiles. Biopure claims to offer a sustainable solution across multiple sectors.
Protein Evolution’s initial fundraising round was led by Collaborative Fund’s climate-focused Collab SOS, which is in partnership with McCartney and LVMH. In late 2022, Protein Evolution and Stella McCartney announced an R&D collaboration for Protein Evolution to turn unused polyester fabrics from Stella McCartney’s previous collections into virgin-quality polyester, piloting a circular solution for the fashion industry. The team has marked a breakthrough and milestone for the partnership in less than a year.
Protein Evolution was founded in 2021 by entrepreneur Connor Lynn and Jonathan Rothberg, a world-renowned scientist, entrepreneur, and National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient. It has claimed to be the “only company in the world” to validate bio-recycling technology through a garment that can be integrated into the existing supply chain, positioning it as a real solution to decarbonize plastic production and address the plastic waste crisis.
How does the Technology work?
Protein Evolution’s Biopure technology leverages AI-designed enzymes to break down polyester waste into the raw materials of new polyester that are indistinguishable to the petroleum-derived raw materials used in polyester manufacturing today. When the enzymes are combined with plastic waste, they break it down into what Protein Evolution calls “building blocks” – these are blocks of plastic-based waste produced by a low-emission, eco-friendly process.
- Once these raw materials are re-integrated into the manufacturing process, the result is an infinitely recyclable polyester with a meaningfully lower carbon footprint than polyester produced from petroleum.
- Biopure is capable of handling a variety of waste streams, from plastic bottles and clam shells, to industrial textiles and garments.
- To create the Parka, Protein Evolution transformed rigid packaging and industrial textile waste into textile-grade polyester. Working with partners in the EU, the polyester was then spun into yarn and woven into new fabric by Stella’s team to be used in the design of the coat.
What’s the collaboration, Protein Evolution x Stella McCartney promising for
The collaboration Protein Evolution x Stella McCartney is aiming for applying Biopure technology to process leftover polyester and nylon fabric from Stella’s collections. The partnership will take the technology from the lab into a real-world setting, an important step toward seamlessly integrating PEI’s technology into existing global brands’ manufacturing processes. Ultimately, this collaboration will demonstrate for the first time how complex fabric types, such as nylon and polyester blends, can be fully re-used to make new plastic material in a low-energy, cost-effective way.
With brands producing almost twice as much clothing as in 2000 – and much of that growth coming from clothing made from plastic-based fibers. The possibility of fully recycling textile waste in this way can open up a wide solution for the existing problems in both the fashion industry and our environment.
According to concerned Personnel’s saying:
Commenting on the collaboration, Stella McCartney, Designer and Founder of Stella McCartney said: “Anybody who knows me knows that I hate waste, which is why I am so thrilled about our collaboration with Protein Evolution. Through my SOS Fund, we were among the first to invest in their pioneering biological recycling technology; one that has the potential and power to transform the world’s plastic waste into infinitely recyclable polyester.
“Over the last year, Protein Evolution has taken unused fabrics from my past collections to test and prove their textile-to-textile circular process. This allowed my atelier to design and create the beautiful, airy parachute parkas made from biologically recycled polyester that you can see at our Sustainable Market at COP28.”
Connor Lynn, co-founder and chief business officer of Protein Evolution, said in a statement: “This marks a pivotal moment in the move towards textile-to-textile circularity in the fashion industry.” “Not only is this coat validation for the utility and quality of bio recycled polyester – specifically polyester chips created using Biopure – it also offers companies an alternative to the landfill or incinerator for their fabrics, extending the life of their materials indefinitely,” he added.
Sophie Bakalar, Collaborative Fund partner, commended Protein Evolution’s achievements and said, “We’re excited for the world to learn about a company we’ve believed in, and backed from day one. Protein Evolution’s breakthrough technology delivers a cost-effective, high-quality way to combat plastic waste and create a truly circular product, not only in fashion, but across industries. It’s remarkable what the company has achieved in less than a year of this collaboration with our partner Stella McCartney.”
In October, the Stella McCartney brand was named an early adopter of Materials Impact Explorer (MIE), a risk assessment tool designed specifically for the fashion, textile and apparel industry. This was preceded through a partnership with the organization Non-profit Textile Exchange, global technology company, Google, NGIS, a location technology company and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).