Many consumers are becoming more aware of the clothes they buy, considering how long they will last, or whether it’s just another short-lived garment destined for the trash. This trend, spurred on by social media, influencers and the media, is encouraging brands to source more sustainable textiles, answering the growing call for better options.

“The textile industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world, using precious resources in its production processes and harmful chemicals to achieve much sought-after fashion staples,” explains Jens Kolind, Vice President, Technical Industries at Novozymes. “That’s why we look along the whole production chain to see where we can make resource savings, safer processes and longer-lasting garments.”

The world consumes 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year (400% more than two decades ago) and the average American generates 37kg of textile waste each year1. As a result, mountains of fashion waste grow faster than high-street fashion chains claim “New season!”

Enter biology

But with sustainability now top of mind for shoppers, brands and textile producers are starting to follow this trend too. One approach is to use more biological ingredients to produce textiles.

“We’ve all experienced the disappointment of buying T-shirts that lose their color after just a couple of washes. It’s as though these garments are old before their time,” says Jens. “But thanks to enzymes, that doesn’t have to be the case.”

Enzymes found in nature can work wonders in textile production. One such type of enzymes are cellulases, which are used in a process called ‘biopolishing’ when producing textiles.

Here, they extend the life of cotton knits by at least 20%. The process keeps a fuzz-free surface and colors brighter for longer, even after 20 washes. The cellulase acts on the ends of the loose fibers, removing the hairiness of the yarn.

The global savings potential at a 20% lifetime extension would save 10% of world cotton production in one year – that’s the equivalent water saving of the annual water consumption of 450 million Europeans and CO2 savings equivalent to closing 7 coal-fired power stations.2

As brands wise up to the commercial value of addressing the sustainability trend, consumers can expect to see better quality, more sustainably-produced garments and greater transparency in labeling.



2 Source: Nielsen et al. (2015): Extended lifetime of cotton clothing with biotechnology. International Dyer. Issue 2