Pina, Portuguese for ‘Pineapple’, is a traditional fibre made from pineapple leaves. Dr Carmen Hijosa analysed this fibre to determine its sustainability as a material - and Pinatex was formed.
Dr Carmen Hijosa Founder and CEO of Ananas Aham, the company behind the project, developed Pinatex over seven years after feeling appalled by the toxic impact animal derived leather has on the environment. The project was initially intended as a potential alternative to leather and soon progressed into a sustainability-driven venture. It was noted that the fibres that form the mesh of the Pinatex can be made for other purposes such as padding in shoes, bags and homeware items. Dr Hijosa stated that ‘the purpose of Pinatex is to fill a niche in the market that is becoming more and more obvious between leather and petroleum-based textiles’.
Pinatex was developed with ‘circular economy values’ which can and has been utilised as a suitable leather alternative by using sustainably sourced fibres from the pineapple leaves. These fibres would otherwise be burnt or discarded.
Pinatex was constructed by extracting the pineapple fibres from the leaves through a process called ‘Decortication’. Carried out at the plantation by the farming community, this is the process of removing the membrane or fibrous cover of the Pineapple. The by-product of this process is biomass which can be converted further into an organic fertiliser, furthermore adding revenue to the farming communities.
Once extracted, the fibres are washed and dried and then experience the ‘De-gummed’ process; the practice of releasing pectin from the fibres. Pectin is the molecule that enables the solid structure of cactus leaves, demonstrating an effective characteristic for being used in sturdy products such as shoes, handbags and interior furnishings.
The fibres are then formed to become a non-woven mesh substance which is completed through the use of thousands of needles being inserted into the fibres through an industrial mechanical process, producing a felt-like structure, providing the base of Pinatex leather. The raw Pinatex then gets transported to Spain where it undergoes treatments to give the material its leather-like appearance. After this final stage, the Pinatex is rolled up for delivery.
This material has been praised for durable, lightweight properties and requires ‘no additional land, water, fertiliser or pesticides’, showcasing sustainability and promoting the basis of the Pinatex project.
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