A Massachusetts-based startup is using discarded silkworm casings as a possible alternative to the chemicals used to treat clothing during manufacturing.

The startup, Evolved by Nature, has developed an alternative to the hazardous chemicals used during the manufacture of clothing with “Activated Silk.” Evolved by Nature takes the cocoons discarded during silk production and places them in a hot water and salt bath. Fibroin, a protein responsible for the strength, is then extracted from the cocoons and spun into a yarn. The yarn is then agitated, turning the yarn into a liquid. Once liquefied, the Activated Silk solution can be used on clothing during manufacturing in lieu of some chemical additives. Certain Activated Silk formulations impart material qualities similar to those achieved by adding chemicals to garments such as moisture wicking, color retention, absorbency, durability and anti-pilling.

In the final stages of manufacturing, clothing is generally treated with chemicals such as formaldehyde, silicon, polyurethane and chlorobenzenes to produce garments that are weatherproof and waterproof, flame retardant, wrinkle-free and durable enough to withstand long-distance shipping all while ensuring that the garments maintain their intended texture, color and sheen. Recent studies have demonstrated that some of these chemicals can be potentially hazardous to both the environment and human health, as some are carcinogens while others have been derived from fossil fuels.

Currently, Evolved by Nature is working with a number of undisclosed fashion and personal care brands, replacing chemical additives with Activated Silk.

For more information, watch the accompanying video that appears courtesy of Evolved by Nature.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com