Protein Evolution x Stella McCartney: A sustainable textile recycling venture

We are applying our technology to process leftover polyester and nylon fabric from Stella’s collections. From there, we will work together to see how these new fibers can create new clothing, footwear, and other infinitely recyclable products.

Mountains of old clothes are piling up around the world. From the deserts of Chile to cities across Ghana, the consequences of fast fashion are becoming more stark by the day.  

Of the 100 billion items of clothing produced each year, less than 1% get recycled into new garments. A big reason? More than 60 percent are made of plastic fibers (polyester, nylon, and acrylic), making them non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. Today’s options to dispose of old clothes remain bleak: throwing them in ever-growing landfills, burning them in incinerators or shipping them to developing countries to sort through for re-use as rags and other low-quality materials.

We at Protein Evolution are working to change this reality in order to create a truly circular, scalable solution for the fashion industry. Recently we announced our groundbreaking R&D collaboration with iconic fashion brand Stella McCartney — a joint effort to trailblaze the future of sustainable fashion.

A variety of Stella McCartney polyesters and nylons were delivered to PEI's HQ (1).JPG

As a biological recycling company, our technology engineers enzymes to transform textile and plastic waste into valuable chemical building blocks that can be used to create new textile and plastic products. This year, we will apply our technology onto leftover polyester and nylon fabric from Stella McCartney’s collections. From there, Stella McCartney will work with our team to see how these new fibers can produce new clothing, footwear, and other infinitely recyclable products.

The partnership will take our work in the lab into a real-world setting, an important step toward seamlessly integrating PEI’s technology into existing global brands’ manufacturing processes. Ultimately, this collaboration will demonstrate for the first time how complex fabric types, such as nylon and polyester blends, can be fully re-used to make new plastic material in a low-energy, cost-effective way.

PEI conducts tests with various plastic waste material and PEI's engineered enzymes.JPG

With brands producing almost twice the volume of clothing they produced in 2000 — and most of that growth coming from clothes made with plastic-based fibers — the ability to fully recycle textile waste in a scalable way will address one of the greatest problems facing the fashion industry and our environment.

We’re honored to partner with Stella McCartney on this ambitious and hopefully groundbreaking effort. As a pioneer in sustainable materials, Stella McCartney was an early investor in Protein Evolution and an advocate for our technology. Our initial fundraising round was led by Collaborative Fund’s climate-focused Collab SOS, which operates in partnership with McCartney.

Stella’s brand is synonymous with sustainability, circularity and innovation. Her brand is among the first to embrace cutting-edge sustainability efforts, which continue to be core tenants of every company initiative to date.

Together we’re setting out to accomplish something that’s never been done at an industrial scale before, and we’re just getting started.