Singtex recycles used coffee grounds into yarn.

Turning your morning coffee into clothing

As natural fibers become increasingly scarce, textile innovation is the future of fashion. New materials – or repurposed ingredients – have the potential of making clothing eco-friendly and multi-functional. Most coffee grounds end up in landfill, but Singtex incoporates them into clothing to make them more sustainable. A great example of making use of what’s already there.

Singtex is a Taiwanese textile manufacturer making synthetic fabrics for a number of international clients, from Nike to Patagonia. In 2005, Singtex put together a research team exploring how and if it would be possible to use coffee in textiles, to improve the synthetic materials’ characteristics and make them more sustainable.

The idea came from Singtex founder Jason Chen and his wife as they went to Starbucks to pick up coffee and realized the chain used coffee grounds for odor control in its kitchen. Only a fraction of coffee grounds is used to make coffee; most of it end up in landfill. Chen thought, why not incorporate this natural odor control into our clothing?

Four and a half years of research and millions of US dollars in investment later, Singtex launched the technique and after some shaky early prototypes and an added high-pressure CO2 extractor, it had a working product called S.Café. Today, Singtex collects around 300-400 kilograms of waste coffee grounds monthly from Starbucks.

« Singtex founder Jason Chen went to Starbucks to pick up coffee and realized the chain used coffee grounds for odor control in its kitchen »

S.Café has a number of beneficial characteristics as it dries fast, protects from UV rays, controls odors and is environmentally friendly thanks to the clean and low-carbon emission process employed when extracting the oil from the recycled coffee grounds. The yarn made with coffee ground is produced in many styles of woven, knitted and soft-shell fabrics. Jason Chen claims the future is bright for the reuse of coffee grounds not just in garment fabrics, but also in a slew of other products such as shoe soles, socks, luggage, soaps and more.

While making the most of coffee waste is in itself a good idea, the fact that coffee production impacts enormously on the environment. To produce beans for one cup requires 140 liters of water.

Whether the coffee production will adapt to our planetary boundaries remains to be seen. If it does, Singtex loses scaling potential. Until then, your daily cup can keep you warm on both the inside and outside.

Visit Singtex here

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