Pinatex is a sustainable alternative leather made out of the waste parts of a pineapple plant. It’s one of those ideas that’s good for people and for the planet, improving incomes for farmers and producing a true circular economy material.
Leather is complicated. It’s an animal product, which raises questions about animal cruelty and death. It also requires a lot of chemicals and water, and tanning is a notoriously noxious process. While working as a consultant to the leather industry in the Philippines, a Spanish designer called Dr Carmen Hijosa was shocked at the toll the business took on people’s health and on the natural environment. She began to investigate alternatives, and over the next seven years she developed Pinatex and the Ananas-Anam company to market it.
Hijosa’s new material takes the long fibres from pineapple plants, a common crop in the Philippines. Pineapples only flower and fruit once, so after the pineapples have been harvested the plant and its leaves are a waste product. Usually they would be burned or piled up to rot down, but using them for Pinatex has created a secondary income stream for farmers.
The fibres are extracted from the leaves – 480 leaves per metre of material – and the biomass that remains is composted. The fibres are felted into a versatile material that has been used to make shoes, bags, wallets, clothes and upholstery. It’s still very niche, but keep an eye out for it.