Sunday, March 3, 2024

The World’s First Garment Made Using Biological Recycling Debuts at COP28 Courtesy of Stella McCartney

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Stella McCartney and Protein Evolution, Inc., a pioneering biological recycling company, have unveiled a revolutionary garment at COP28, made from waste.

Stella McCartney and Protein Evolution’s groundbreaking parka, stands as the first-ever clothing item produced using the company’s innovative Biopure technology. This technology transforms rigid packaging waste and industrial textile strappings, previously used to secure international freight containers, into a new, sustainable fashion material.

Connor Lynn, Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of Protein Evolution, expressed the significance of this achievement. “Today marks a pivotal moment in the move towards textile-to-textile circularity in the fashion industry,” he stated. Lynn elaborated on the utility and quality of biorecycled polyester, specifically polyester chips created using Biopure. He emphasized that this technology offers a sustainable alternative to landfills or incineration for fabric waste, thereby indefinitely extending the life of these materials.

Protein Evolution’s Biopure technology is a game-changer in recycling. It utilizes AI-designed enzymes to break down polyester waste into new polyester raw materials, which are indistinguishable from those derived from petroleum in traditional polyester manufacturing. The resultant polyester is not only infinitely recyclable but also boasts a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to its petroleum-based counterpart. This innovative process can handle a diverse range of waste, from plastic bottles and clamshells to industrial textiles and garments.

stella mccartney
Stella McCartney is partnering with Protein Evolution to tackle fashion textile recycling | Shutterstock

Founded in 2021 by entrepreneur Connor Lynn and Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, a renowned scientist and National Medal of Technology and Innovation recipient, Protein Evolution is at the forefront of assisting the chemicals and materials industries in transitioning to a lower-carbon, circular economy. The company, headquartered in New Haven, Conn., boasts collaborations with ESPCI Paris, Fashion for Good, and 4Catalyzer, a life sciences accelerator committed to global impact through innovations in various fields.

McCartney, an investor in Protein Evolution, shared her enthusiasm for this collaboration. “Anybody who knows me knows that I hate waste, which is why I am so thrilled about our collaboration with Protein Evolution,” she said.

The designer revealed that her SOS Fund was among the first to invest in Protein Evolution’s trailblazing biological recycling technology, capable of transforming the world’s plastic waste into infinitely recyclable polyester. McCartney highlighted that over the past year, Protein Evolution has repurposed unused fabrics from her previous collections to validate their textile-to-textile circular process. This collaboration culminated in the creation of elegant, lightweight parachute parkas made from biologically recycled polyester, showcased at COP28’s Sustainable Market. McCartney recently debuted vegan leather made from upcycled Champagne grape waste courtesy of fellow LVMH label, Veuve Clicquot.

Sophie Bakalar, Partner at Collaborative Fund, shared her excitement about the company’s progress. “We’re excited for the world to learn about a company we’ve believed in, and backed, from day one. Protein Evolution’s break-through 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,” Bakalar said. She commended the rapid achievements of the collaboration with Stella McCartney, emphasizing Protein Evolution’s focus on creating immediate, impactful solutions.

Stella McCartney's new leather made from Veuve Clicquot grapes
Stella McCartney’s new leather made from Veuve Clicquot grapes | Courtesy

In late 2022, a groundbreaking R&D collaboration was announced between Protein Evolution and Stella McCartney, focusing on converting unused polyester fabrics from McCartney’s previous collections into virgin-quality polyester. This collaboration, resulting in the debut of the groundbreaking parka, signifies a major breakthrough for the partnership in under a year.

To fabricate the parka, Protein Evolution transformed rigid packaging and industrial textile waste into textile-grade polyester, showcasing the versatility of Biopure technology. In collaboration with European partners, the polyester was spun into yarn and woven into new fabric by Stella McCartney’s team for the coat’s design.

The innovative parka, presented in soft natural tones, draws inspiration from parachute styles featured in the British brand’s collections. It merges sustainable practices with a sporty aesthetic, serving as a tangible proof of concept for textile-to-textile circularity. This unique garment will be displayed at the Stella McCartney sustainable fashion exhibit at COP28 until December 12, 2023.

Protein Evolution stands alone as the only company to have validated biological recycling technology through a clothing item. The broader implications for the plastics industry are significant, as this process seamlessly integrates into the existing supply chain, offering a real solution to decarbonize plastic production and address the plastic waste crisis.

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