Pineapples Could Be Our Sustainable Answer to Leather!

Photo via Roberto Verzo

Wait.

Did you just say pineapples?

Yup, you read that right – Pineapples.

Made from the discarded leaves of pineapples, Piñatex – piña is Spanish for pineapple – is a new textile hitting the markets which could replace leathers, cotton and vinyl.

This isn’t the first time pineapples have been used to make clothes. The Barong Tagalog, a popular embroidered formal dress from the Philippines often worn by men at weddings, also used Piña fabric that is hand-loomed from leaf fibers.

But Piñatex isn’t woven. Instead, it’s a non-woven textile comparable to felt or leather.

How Does it Work

Once pineapples are harvested from the trees, the trees are usually left there to rot.

Wasteful, right?

But Spanish designer Carmen Hijosa has found a way to put that waste to good use. She’s developed a method in which the otherwise-wasted leaves from those trees are harvested, then cut up and layered. The fibres of those leaves are then extracted and put through a process called decortication, a process which takes place on the plantation by the farming community. The fibers are then put through an industrial process that turns into its non-woven textile.

With a similar appearance to canvas, the textile can be dyed, printed, and treated so that it resembles other materials such as metallic leather, vinyl, or snakeskin.

Piñatex is Sustainable

The most exciting part of Piñatex is that it’s completely sustainable. All it requires is water to allow for the plants to grow, something which happens in the food-industry anyways.

The only by-product that occurs is the bio-mass that happens after decortication. However, bio-mass can be converted into organic fertilizer or bio-gas, and because decortication happens on the plantations themselves, this by-product can be used by the community for additional income.

Who Invented it

Photo via Royal College of Art
Photo via Royal College of Art

Carmen Hijosa said she came up with the idea while working in the leather industry. Hijosa, who was a consultant to the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines in the ‘90s, said that while she was on a business trip to the Philippines she witnessed the terrible effect that the industry had on the environment and on its workers. She was struck by the possibly revolutionary idea that the abundant natural fibers of pineapples could be used as a harmless and versatile substitute for leather.

After years of research and development, Hijosa finally founded the company Ananas Anam and patented her invention.

Piñatex is currently being tested in real-world applications such as fashion and accessories, upholstery and car and aircraft industries. It has the potential to become an amazing eco-friendly, sustainable and versatile alternative to traditional textiles.

“Leather is becoming a luxury, placing itself in the higher price point of the market. There is a gap in the market between petroleum-based textiles and leather, which is the middle price point, and that is the gap that Piñatex the product is really seeking.”

“We can make shoes, we can make bags. We can make chairs, sofas. It can be panelling. Eventually it can be made into the interiors of cars, even linings.”