Novozymes offers new biotechnology for the fashion industry

Novozymes, the leading Danish biotechnology company, in collaboration with Hong-Kong based textile manufacturer Esquel, has developed technology to improve the strength, softness, and smoothness of fabrics while reducing CO2 emissions.

The project was presented today within the framework of the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. Environment-minded fashion industry leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the acceleration of sustainability in a summit hosted by the Nordic Fashion Association.


Steen Riisgaard, CEO of Novozymes, said: “Biotechnology offers substantial environmental benefits in many industries around the world. In the textile industry our unique innovations improve the strength, smoothness and softness of fabrics whilst at the same time reducing processing time and lowering CO2 emissions. This sets a new standard for sustainability of fashion fabrics at a time when consumers are increasingly demanding it.”


Savings potential of more than 40 million tons of CO2
Novozymes presented two initiatives in particular: the ‘elemental textiles’ project and the ‘I do 30’ campaign. The two initiatives work at both ends of the fashion value chain. At one end, elemental textiles are produced with lower carbon emissions, whilst at the other end ‘I do 30’ encourages consumers to wash at lower temperatures.


Lowering washing temperatures can save 12 million tons in Europe and 20 million tons in the US per annum while elemental textiles has the potential of saving 70,000 liters of water and 1,000 kilos of CO2 per ton of knitted fabric during the process of creating a piece of sustainable clothing. The full savings potential of this technology adds up to 9 million tons of CO2 per annum - and it is cost neutral to implement.


Elemental textile trials were performed on knitted fabric at Esquel’s facilities where fabric was first “bioscoured” to remove impurities and prepare it for dyeing. The result was reduced water and energy consumption. Next the fabric was dyed using a special enzyme solution which removes protruding fiber ends, creating a smoother, cleaner fabric surface that resists pilling over time. At the end of the process, chemicals were replaced with an enzymatic rinse that removes excess dye and maintains colorfastness while saving water.