How Dole is recycling banana stems into vegan fashion | Fashion

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Food and beverage company Dole Sunshine Company has partnered with Philippines-based social enterprise Musa Fabric to turn its banana stems, which would otherwise be considered waste, into fabric for plant-based fashion products.

According to Dole, almost 15 million bananas are grown in the Philippines each year for consumers around the world, but banana stems lag behind. While some of the stems are used to regenerate the soil in which they are grown, more than 4.4 million banana stems are wasted each year. Together, Dole and Musa aim to convert this fruit waste from Dole’s banana plantations into “fibers of purpose”.

Founded in 2020 by fashion designer Joy Soo, Musa Fabric makes its textiles exclusively from banana fibers. All of their artistic tribal fashion pieces are woven by inmates inside the Davao del Norte Correctional Facility. Weaving banana fibers for textiles is a centuries-old tradition, and Soo revived the tradition as part of her desire to help provide income and skills to inmates and marginalized communities.



As part of the partnership, Dole and Musa provide a stable source of income to more than 100 people, including marginalized communities in the Bukidnon Highlands and inmates at Davao Penal Colony, while offering conscientious consumers options sustainable fashion, including clothing, bags, hats, shoes and other accessories. The first pieces from the Dole-Musa product line made their runway debut at New York Fashion Week earlier this year.

“Our runway showcase of fashion products made from banana waste fiber was highly appreciated at New York Fashion Week,” Joy Soo, founder of Musa Fabric, said in a statement. “Consumers around the world are becoming more aware of their choices and have begun to demand fashion options that respect the planet and respect people. The collaboration with Dole Sunshine Company is very important to highlight the applications of recycled banana fibers”.

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Banana waste for sustainable vegan fashion

The partnership includes working with the non-profit Kasilak Development Foundation to identify members of marginalized communities in the Bukidnon Highlands and train them in the banana fiber extraction process. Musa will train all identified beneficiaries in Bukidnon, and the subsequent thread that is extracted from the waste will be sent to the Davao Penal Colony, where more than 100 female and male inmates will weave the thread into cloth.

The woven fabric will then be made into fashion apparel and accessories, estimated by Dole to be worth more than $50 million, by the same beneficiaries in Bukidnon. The finished fashion products will be sold through Musa Fabric to conscientious consumers in various countries around the world.



Dole Zero Waste Commitment

The partnership is part of Dole’s goal of zero fruit loss by 2025 in an effort to reduce food waste, and also contributes to a circular economy by using waste materials to make sustainable materials. “In addition to working to achieve zero fruit loss by 2025, the Dole Promise also includes a commitment to creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” Christian Wiegele, president of the Fresh Produce Group, Dole Sunshine Company, said in a statement. “Our collaboration with Musa Fabric allows us to not only reduce, but also recycle and reuse banana waste, and also create a sustainable source of income and employment for the local community while increasing the employability of inmates at the Penal Colony of Davao after his release. making this move that much more meaningful and useful.”

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Last year, Dole partnered with Ananas Anam, the London-based company behind the innovative Piñatex pineapple vegan leather, to put pineapple leaves from Dole’s farms in the Philippines to good use. Dole’s farm in the Philippines is one of the largest pineapple plantations in the world, and through this particular partnership, Ananas Anam collects the leaves of the pineapple plant harvested by Dole, which are washed, dried and processed to create a non-woven mesh to form the basis of the Piñatex sustainable material.

Developed by Spanish designer Carmen Hijosa in 2016, Piñatex is used as a base for specialized finishes, such as being treated with pigments and coatings to create colourful, durable and waterproof vegan leather. Piñatex is now being used by fashion brands like H&M, Hugo Boss and Nike.

For more information on sustainable vegan fashion, read:
Two guys in Mexico just created vegan leather from cacti
Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger Join the Plastic-Free Vegan Leather Movement
Old Navy is now making plant-based sandals from sugar cane

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