Until this week I had never heard of coffee based fabrics or Singtex, the Taiwanese company producing this surprising product. Back in 2005 Jason Chen a textile maker first considered an alternative use for coffee ground whilst sipping coffee in Starbucks, having learnt that only .2% of the coffee bean is actually used in producing a fresh brew cup with the other 99.8% forming the waste grounds.
It took four years research and a hefty development budget but the end result was the first ever fabric mill with coffee as an integral part of the raw material used. The advantages claimed for coffee in fabric are widespread, from helping with waterproofing, to protecting from ultraviolet light. Also it has been found to help eliminate odours, with companies including Timberland using coffee fabric insoles in foot ware to reduce the scourge of smelly feet!
The process involves taking the polyester element from recycled PET plastic bottles and mixing this with coffee grounds to form the yarn used for a range of fabrics. An example shown by the manufacturer indicates that the coffee fabric needed for a single T shirt can be produced from just five recycled plastic bottles and three cups of coffee grounds.
Although coffee fabric accounts for only around 10% of Singtex output the potential to tap into the vast waste stream in developed counties for both plastic bottles and coffee ground should give the opportunity for a small niche product to take substantial market share. The client base is already in excess of 100 to with a number of strong brands including Adidas, North Face, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret and Timberland, mentioned above, recognising the practical and environmental advantages of this unusual material.
Written by: Colin from KSV.