Bio-Based and Biodegradable Textiles

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based and biodegradable textiles are fabrics made from renewable sources like plants, algae, or microorganisms, and designed to decompose naturally at the end of their life, reducing landfill waste and avoiding microplastic pollution. These materials offer a sustainable and circular alternative to conventional textiles, addressing the fashion industry’s urgent need to reduce its environmental footprint.

Impact on climate action

Bio-based and biodegradable textiles significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. By replacing synthetic fibers with organic materials, such as bamboo or hemp, and employing sustainable manufacturing processes, this innovation minimizes emissions and waste, fostering a more environmentally conscious approach to textile production and consumption.


  • Bio-based Materials: These textiles utilize renewable resources like bamboo, hemp, organic cotton, wood pulp, or innovative materials derived from agricultural waste or bacterial cellulose.
  • Biodegradability and Compostability: Biodegradable textiles break down naturally in the environment through the action of microorganisms, while compostable textiles decompose under specific controlled conditions.
  • Biomimicry and Nature-Inspired Design: Drawing inspiration from nature, scientists and engineers are developing bio-based textiles with unique properties, such as breathability, water resistance, and antibacterial properties.
  • Closed-loop Manufacturing: Bio-based and biodegradable textiles can be designed for closed-loop systems, where waste materials are composted or recycled back into the production process, minimizing waste and promoting circularity.

TRL : Varies depending on the specific material and technology, ranging from 4-8.

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Microbial Fermentation for Fiber Production: Utilizing microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, to produce bio-based fibers with unique properties, such as high strength, softness, and biodegradability.
  • Agricultural Waste Upcycling: Transforming agricultural waste, such as pineapple leaves, banana stems, and orange peels, into valuable fibers for textiles, reducing waste and creating new revenue streams for farmers.
  • Algae-based Textile Development: Harnessing the rapid growth and versatile properties of algae to create bio-based fibers and dyes, offering a sustainable and renewable alternative to conventional textiles.
  • Biodegradable and Compostable Finishing Treatments: Developing finishing treatments for bio-based textiles that maintain their biodegradability or compostability, ensuring that garments can be safely returned to the environment at the end of their life.
  • Design for Biodegradability: Designing garments with specific considerations for biodegradability, such as using biodegradable thread and avoiding non-biodegradable components like zippers and buttons.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Renewable Resource Utilization
  • Microbial Fiber Production
  • Agricultural Waste Transformation
  • Algae-Based Textile Innovation
  • Biodegradable Finishing Treatments
  • Compostable Textile Development
  • Nature-Inspired Textile Design
  • Closed-Loop Manufacturing Systems
  • Sustainable Fiber Sourcing
  • Biomimetic Textile Engineering
  • Circular Fashion Initiatives
  • Eco-Friendly Dyeing Techniques
  • Natural Fiber Reinforcement
  • Innovative Waste Reduction Strategies
  • Bioplastic Textile Alternatives
  • Sustainable Supply Chain Management
  • Eco-Friendly Textile Recycling
  • Green Chemistry in Textile Production
  • Biodegradable Clothing Materials
  • Sustainable Fashion Design Principles

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Ecovative Design (USA):
    • Technology Focus: Ecovative Design specializes in using mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to create sustainable materials. They leverage biotechnology and advanced manufacturing processes to produce bio-based alternatives to traditional materials like plastics and foams.
    • Uniqueness: Ecovative Design stands out for its innovative use of mycelium as a sustainable material for packaging, insulation, and other applications. Their technology offers biodegradable solutions that reduce reliance on fossil fuels and minimize environmental impact.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include industries seeking eco-friendly packaging solutions, such as food and beverage, consumer electronics, and shipping.
  • Pangaia (Global):
    • Technology Focus: Pangaia focuses on creating bio-based and recycled textiles for fashion and apparel. They utilize innovative materials such as seaweed-derived fibers, recycled plastics, and organic cotton to produce sustainable clothing.
    • Uniqueness: Pangaia is known for its commitment to sustainability across the entire product lifecycle, from sourcing materials to manufacturing and distribution. Their products combine style with environmental consciousness, appealing to eco-conscious consumers.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include consumers looking for sustainable and ethical fashion choices, as well as retailers and brands aiming to enhance their sustainability credentials.
  • Spinnova (Finland):
    • Technology Focus: Spinnova specializes in developing sustainable textile fibers using wood-based cellulose. Their proprietary spinning technology enables the production of eco-friendly fibers without harmful chemicals or waste.
    • Uniqueness: Spinnova’s technology stands out for its low environmental impact and versatility, allowing for the creation of a wide range of textiles, from clothing to home goods. Their process is water-efficient and avoids the use of harmful solvents.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments include apparel brands, textile manufacturers, and retailers seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional fibers like cotton and polyester.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands):
    • Technology Enhancements: Wageningen University & Research is pioneering the development of bio-based textile materials derived from renewable sources such as agricultural residues and biopolymers. They are employing innovative processing techniques such as enzymatic modification and biofabrication to enhance the properties of these materials.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The research at Wageningen University & Research stands out for its holistic approach to sustainability, considering the entire lifecycle of textile products from raw material production to end-of-life disposal. They are investigating novel recycling and composting methods to ensure the biodegradability and circularity of bio-based textiles.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based textiles developed at Wageningen University & Research have applications in fashion, sportswear, and home textiles. These sustainable alternatives to conventional textiles offer consumers eco-friendly options without compromising on performance or aesthetics.
  • Cornell University (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Cornell University is at the forefront of research on bio-based fibers and fabrics, exploring the use of advanced biotechnology and material science techniques to engineer novel textile materials with desirable properties. They are investigating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and bioengineering approaches to produce sustainable textile fibers.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Cornell’s research is distinguished by its focus on genetic modification and synthetic biology for the production of bio-based textiles. By harnessing the power of genetic engineering, researchers aim to create customizable fibers with enhanced strength, durability, and biodegradability.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based textiles developed at Cornell University have potential applications in fashion, apparel, and technical textiles. These next-generation materials offer designers and manufacturers new possibilities for creating sustainable and innovative textile products.
  • University of California, Berkeley (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at UC Berkeley are exploring the use of biodegradable polymers and natural fibers to develop eco-friendly textile materials. They are leveraging advances in material science, nanotechnology, and polymer chemistry to improve the performance and sustainability of bio-based textiles.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UC Berkeley’s research emphasizes the integration of bio-based textiles into the circular economy, focusing on designing products that can be easily recycled or composted at the end of their useful life. They are also investigating sustainable dyeing and finishing processes to minimize environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based textiles developed at UC Berkeley have diverse applications in fashion, home furnishings, and outdoor gear. These sustainable alternatives to conventional textiles offer consumers environmentally friendly choices while reducing the fashion industry’s carbon footprint.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Bio-based and biodegradable textiles are slowly but surely making their way into the mainstream fashion market. Several brands have launched collections featuring bio-based materials:

  • Stella McCartney: This luxury brand has incorporated Mylo™, Ecovative’s mycelium-based leather alternative, into its footwear and handbags.
  • H&M: This fast-fashion retailer has introduced garments made with bio-based materials like Tencel™, a fiber derived from sustainably sourced wood pulp.