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Leon Kaye headshot

Made from Silk Byproducts, This Additive Could Replace Chemicals in Our Clothing

By Leon Kaye
Can discarded silkworm casings help the global garment industry become more sustainable? This Massachusetts-based startup answers with an absolute yes.

Can discarded silkworm casings help the global garment industry become more sustainable? This Massachusetts-based startup answers with an absolute yes.

Can discarded silkworm casings help the global garment industry become more sustainable? Massachusetts-based startup Evolved By Nature believes so, claiming its green chemistry can transform how the apparel industry manufactures the clothes we wear day-to-day.

Many of our clothes are treated with chemicals, including flame retardants. Additives such as formaldehyde, chlorobenzenes, silicon and polyurethane are just a few examples. These chemicals all perform various functions, including weather- and water-proofing; they help textiles survive shipments across long distances; some allow clothes to stay wrinkle free; and other chemicals allow fabrics to maintain their sheen or texture over a longer period of time.

The flip side, however, is that there’s a bounty of literature suggesting these clothes not only exact a huge effect on the environment, but on human health as well. If you’ve ever felt itchy after wearing a new garment, you can understand why. But even the washing of new clothing before their first wear does not guarantee someone won’t react to chemicals and allergens tucked into many of our clothes. And in any event, all those chemicals have been leaving a long trail across many apparel companies’ supply chains. Another point to consider: Many of these chemicals are derived from fossil fuels.

Evolved By Nature believes it has a solution for the finishing process in garment manufacturing that can help decrease the global textile sector’s environmental footprint.

The product, which the company calls “Activated Silk,” is made from natural cocoons discarded during the silk manufacturing process. According to the company, one valuable component in those unwanted silk cocoons is fibroin, a protein that contributes to silk’s venerated strength. Evolved By Nature says it has over 75 patented techniques that can offer characteristics including moisture-wicking, anti-pilling, more efficient absorbency and better durability.

Evolved By Nature insists its “green chemistry” process is simple. Cocoons are simply washed in a hot bath of water and salt. Then, the coveted fibroin is extracted into a yarn, and that same yarn is churned into a liquid. From there, the liquified product is shipped to customers to use as they see fit.

The properties of this silk-based additive may seem complex, but Evolved By Nature says the long history of silk is a clear segue to the product’s application. Silk has long been associated with luxury and royalty, and this fiber also has timeless practical medical applications.

As clothing manufacturers and brands step over each other announcing recycled plastic bottles and other sustainable materials woven into their products, or urge us to curtail or even cease washing our clothes, these companies’ supply chains still are held back by the fact that many still have plenty of room for improvement. Solutions like those Evolved By Nature suggest may be worth a closer look.

Image credit: LoggaWiggler/Pixabay

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye