From fashion to energy – the rind and seeds of Sicily’s most famous citrus fruit, the humble orange, are being used in a range of greener, healthier business initiatives.

In 2011, Adriana Santonocito was a design student in Milan when she first had the idea of making sustainable textiles from what was naturally abundant, and widely wasted, in her native Sicilian city of Catania.

Her challenge was to find a way for the rinds of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oranges to be put to good use.

Now, thanks to her creative thinking, it is possible to make whole items of clothing using fibre that originated from the fruit.

Chemical process

Ms Santonocito’s concept was inspired by a question posed in her university dissertation. Could a luxurious silk foulard be made from citrus by-products, that would otherwise be thrown away or fed to cattle?

The question was particularly relevant in Sicily, where many thousands of tonnes of citrus fruit are juiced every year, leaving massive amounts of waste.

The 39-year-old found her answer in the university’s labs, and it earned her a patent.

It was already known that cellulose could be extracted from orange rinds. But Ms Santonocito discovered that, using chemical reagents, it could then be turned into yarn, which could be dyed and blended with other textiles, such as cotton or polyester.

Together with her university colleague Enrica Arena, she founded Orange Fiber in 2014, and set about selling the silk-like material to clothes-makers.

In 2017, the famous Italian fashion label Salvatore Ferragamo used it in its spring-summer collection. The aim was to make its high-end shirts, dresses and foulards more sustainable.

Orange Fiber, which now has a team of 12 people, operates from a local juice-processing plant, where it gets its waste material for free.

The business is partially seasonal, operating during the months of the year when the juice-maker works. But once the orange rind has been transformed into cellulose, it can be put in storage for use later.

By Francesca Marchese Business reporter, Sicily

Taken from the BBC Website, Published 24 Aug 17