Orange Fiber: how to turn citrus waste into a sustainable fabric

Orange Fiber is an innovative green startup based in Italy, an example of a sustainable and competitive business, respectful of the local resources.

Can we make a textile from citrus waste? This is the question that came to the mind of two Sicilian girls and brought them to develop one of the most innovative green startup in Italy.

Orange Fiber is a textile made by extracting the cellulose from the fibers that are discarded from the industrial pressing and processing of the oranges. The fiber, through nanotechnology techniques, is also enriched with citrus fruit essential oil. The result is a vitaminic textile that nourish the skin like a not greasy body lotion. This innovative idea has the potential to bring sustainability inside the textile industry, tackling the environmental issue of the citrus waste production and bring job opportunities in a disadvantaged land.

Everything started in 2011. Adriana Santonocito, specialized in design and innovative textile and Enrica Arena, expert in communication and marketing, were students in Milan when they invented Orange Fiber. Adriana, for her thesis, was conducting a research on a sustainable and vitamin-enriched textile from citrus waste. Enrica, her flatmate at that time, embraced the idea adding to it her communication and marketing expertise. The thesis became a project at the Polytechnic of Milan, after the feasibility study the team patented Orange Fiber. With the financial support of Trentino Sviluppo and the help of two business angels and a lawyer, Orange Fiber officially became an innovative startup based in Catania and Rovereto in February 2014. In September 2015 was presented the Orange Fiber prototype in the occasion of the Expo Gate of Milan.

Orange Fiber has special connection with the Sicilian territory. It is not only the place of origin of the two co-founders, but also the location candidate to establish the production of their sustainable textile. The citrus sector is suffering and in general the labor market is stagnant, especially for young people. The project potentially can have important positive social and economic effects for the island.

From an environmental prospective it is not less interesting. Sicily has a massive production of citrus and consequently a production of waste materials from the industry, up to 700 tons per years. Orange fiber is offering a solution to the problem of reducing the amount of this materials.

As far the idea has won several awards at national and international level such as the UNECE Ideas for Change Award in April 2015. Also the future is promising. The possible uses of the fiber are varied and the presence in the market, from cosmetic textile to home textile, until develop their own fashion line, is relevant. Orange Fiber has many characteristics to succeed. Great strengths are the innovative and sustainable approach applied to the textile and fashion industry, the respect and valorization of local resources and the internationalization of the products able to spark interest of the biggest fashion brands.