Quyên Nguyen-Le
May 31, 2016 4:44 pm
Piñatex / savse.com

Pineapples are super versatile. They can be used as a snack, as a pizza topping, in drinks, as a home for talking sponges who live under the sea, but one company has taken pineapple use to the next level… Piñatex is a eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to animal leather made from, wait for it, pineapple leaves.

“We can make shoes, we can make bags. We can make chairs, sofas. It can be paneling. Eventually, it can be made into the interiors of cars, even linings,” said Spanish designer, Dr. Carmen Hijosa, founder and CEO of Ananas Anam, the startup that makes Piñatex.

In the 1990s, Dr. Hijosa working in the leather-textile industry when she was introduced to the barong tagalog, a thin traditional Filipino shirt woven from pineapple leaf fibers. It sparked an idea to develop a non-woven textile from strong pineapple leaves. Appalled by the toxic effects to both the communities producing leather and to the environment, Hijosa left the traditional leather industry and spent nearly a decade developing her pineapple textile, while earning a PhD at the Royal College of Art in London.

The process for Piñatex begins when pineapple farmers gather, cut up, and layer the leaves after harvesting the fruits. Then, these fibers are put through an industrial process that turns them into a material that feels similar to felt. The finished product can vary in thickness and durability, depending on its intended final use.

So in addition to the environmental benefits of creating biodegradable “leather,” the company says it will enhance the standard of living for Filipino farmers, who would be able to sell otherwise disposed pineapple leaves leftover from their pineapple harvests. The byproducts of this textile process can also be converted into fertilizer, which can provide additional income to pineapple farmers as well.

To top it off, Piñatex reportedly even costs 30% less than traditional animal leather. “We have the advantage that our waste is about 5% whereas leather’s waste is about 25% so there is a price to pay for [disposing the] waste as well,” Dr. Hijosa explained.

Piñatex is expected to be commercially available this summer.

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