ALT TEX: turning food waste into textiles
Myra Arshad’s background is in business, but the textile industry has always been close to her heart. Her family has been involved in textile manufacturing for decades. Myra’s hyper-awareness of the true cost of fashion prompted her to leave her corporate career and found ALT TEX, a venture that’s turning food waste into biodegradable, carbon-neutral textiles.
A garment made with ALT TEX fabric instead of polyester will stop food waste from going to landfill, divert carbon emissions from the atmosphere, and keep microplastics out of the ocean.
ALT TEX is participating in the Centre for Social Innovation’s Earth Tech, an accelerator for startups and nonprofits working on climate and freshwater solutions. The bullfrogpowered community supports Earth Tech and its cohort through our community projects grant.
Following the thread
Myra wasn’t planning on switching careers or starting a business – ALT TEX started out as a do-it-yourself project in her kitchen. She convinced her best friend Avneet Ghotra, who has a background in biochemistry, to join her in learning more about textiles and creating some homemade fibres.
“At the time, we were just treating this as a fun project,” Myra recalled. “But through ongoing trials, we realized the fibres we were creating could have some real industrial merit.”
Myra and Avneet took their findings to university professors and asked them to run discovery studies to validate their findings. “Miraculously, we were able to convince two professors,” Myra said. “Their validation allowed us to seek government funding to take our research into a more sophisticated lab, where we started growing rapidly.”
ALT TEX now gathers post-industrial organic waste, processes it to create biofibre, and creates polyester-like textiles that can replace synthetic materials. This process reduces carbon emissions in two ways: by diverting food waste that would otherwise produce landfill gas, and by reducing the need for virgin polyester, which is made from petroleum. And on top of reducing emissions, ALT TEX produces a biodegradable product that can be used again in a circular supply chain.
Weaving it together
Joining Earth Tech helped Myra make the leap from kitchen project to fast-growing startup. “If it weren’t for these programs, startups like ours would be years behind,” she admitted.
“Being in the company of impact-focused and like-minded innovators completely changes the way you think about your business,” Myra said. “We came out of Earth Tech with a renewed perspective on how to measure and evaluate our impact, and we’re excited to implement these frameworks as we move closer to commercialization.”
ALT TEX is still a few years away from commercialization, but Myra and her team have seen huge success in their first year. They recently raised $1.5 million during their first funding round. “That was huge validation that we weren’t the only ones incredibly excited about what we’re building!” Myra said.
The future of fashion
The fashion industry touches everyone – both literally and metaphorically. Myra’s motivation is to make textiles that are more sustainable and ethical for everyone.
“Fashion is one of the oldest industries in the world, and to a large extent it’s been stagnant and uninterrupted by technology,” Myra said. “With fashion’s current environmental trajectory, it’s expected to account for a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. We need tech – and biotech specifically – to revolutionize the resources we consume for the sake of fashion.”
Curious about the other Earth Tech ventures that Bullfrog supports? See how Sunset Renewables is creating a circular economy for solar panels here.