Orange Fiber finalist in Microfiber Innovation Challenge 2021

Orange Fiber was announced as one of the twelve innovative solutions for addressing plastic microfiber pollution with a chance of winning a share of $650,000 as part of the Conservation X Labs (CXL) Microfiber Innovation Challenge.

“Plastic microfibers pollution is a global issue that can’t be ignored because it impacts the planet and human health.” said Enrica Arena, CEO & Co-Founder of Orange Fiber. “Winning the prize would unlock the full potential of our sustainable innovation, enabling key investment opportunities for the R&D and scale-up of cutting-edge material solutions  focusing on biodegradability and supporting us in catalysing virtuous change in the textile and fashion system”.

Millions of tiny fibers shed when we wear and wash our clothing, and these contribute to an estimated 35% of the primary microplastics released into our oceans and waterways according to a 2017 report by IUCN. Stopping microfiber pollution requires a significant transformation in textile and clothing production processes.

The Microfiber Innovation Challenge is supporting solutions that will halt microfiber pollution, an increasing threat to human and planetary health. The Challenge invited scientists, engineers, biologists, entrepreneurs and innovators across the world to submit applications showing how their innovations can solve the issue at the source, receiving submissions from 24 countries. 

“These are some of the most revolutionary innovations that are needed to create a more sustainable future,” said Paul Bunje, Co-Founder of Conservation X Labs. “We’re excited to provide critical support to the real solutions, products, and tools that are addressing the exponentially growing plastic pollution crisis.”

The finalists were decided by external panels of experts drawn from across the sustainable apparel industry, microplastics research experts, and innovation accelerators. Innovations were judged on feasibility, potential for growth, environmental impact, and the novelty of their approach.

They are:

  • AlgiKnit, Brooklyn, NY – Eco-conscious, renewable yarns derived from kelp seaweed, one of the most regenerative organisms on the planet.
  • AltMat, Ahmedabad, India – Alternative materials that repurpose agricultural waste into versatile and high-performing natural fibers.
  • Graphene-based fibres by Nanoloom, London, UK – An innovation initially designed for skin regeneration and wound healing being applied to fibres and fabrics for apparel. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, recyclable, does not shed and can be waterproofed without additives, in addition to inheriting graphene’s “wonder material” properties in being incredibly strong and lightweight.
  • Kintra Fibers, Brooklyn, NY – A proprietary bio-based and compostable polymer that is optimized for synthetic textile production, providing apparel brands with a strong, soft, and cost-effective cradle-to-cradle material.
  • Mango Materials, Oakland, CA – This innovative manufacturing technology turns waste carbon emissions into biodegradable biopolyester fibers.
  • Natural Fiber Welding, Peoria, IL – Bonding networks holding natural fibers together are engineered to control a yarn’s form and enhance fabric performance features including dry time and moisture-wicking ability.
  • Orange Fiber, Catania, Italy – This innovation incorporates a patented process to create sustainable fabrics from the by-products of citrus juice.
  • PANGAIA x MTIX Microfiber Mitigation, West Yorkshire, UK – A novel application of MTIX’s multiplexed laser surface enhancement (MLSE®) technology modifies the surfaces of fibers within a fabric to prevent microfiber shedding.
  • Spinnova, Jyväskylä, Finland – Mechanically refined wood or waste is turned into a textile fiber without any harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process.
  • Squitex, Philadelphia, PA – This innovation uses genetic sequencing and synthetic biology to produce a unique protein structure originally found in the tentacles of the squid.
  • TreeKind, London, UK – A new plant-based leather alternative made from urban plant waste, agricultural waste and forestry waste that uses less than 1% of the water compared to leather production.
  • Werewool Fibers, New York City, NY – This innovation involves using biotechnology to design new fibers with specific structures that mimic aesthetic and performance properties found in nature.

To learn more about the selected finalists, go to 

The winners of the prize will be unveiled at an event in early 2022 as part of a Solutions Fair and Awards Ceremony. Media and members of the public can register for updates, including information on how to attend the event, by subscribing to the CXL newsletter at: 

About the Microfiber Innovation Challenge 

The Microfiber Innovation Challenge seeks upstream solutions to halt microfiber pollution, an increasing threat to human and planetary health. Conservation X Labs will award $650,000 in prizes to innovations that help prevent further microfiber pollution. The Challenge is a call for 

upstream innovations that replace plastic in textiles and/or prevent microfiber shedding by 1) replacing textiles that are sources of plastic microfiber with replacements or 2) preventing/ developing improved textile manufacturing processes to decrease microfiber shedding. 

The Microfiber Challenge is run by CXL and funded by the Flotilla Foundation and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. It is supported by a broad coalition of partners including AnotherTomorrow, The Biomimicry Institute, Bolt Threads, Canopy, Fashion For Good, Finisterre, Material Innovation Initiative, The Microfibre Consortium, The North Face, The Ocean Foundation, Oceanic Global, Ocean Wise, Plastic Soup Foundation, Queen of Raw, Think Beyond Plastic Foundation, Under Armour, and more. The Grand Challenge model is an innovative way to advance solutions to the world’s biggest problems. The approach has the benefit of encouraging new ideas, fast-tracking successful innovations, bringing together different networks involved in the problem as well as raising awareness amongst the wider public. 

Follow and use the Microfiber Challenge hashtag #MicrofiberInnovation 

About Conservation X Labs 

Conservation X Labs is a Washington, DC-based innovation and technology company with a mission to prevent the sixth mass extinction. Each year it issues global competitions awarding monetary prizes to the best solutions for specific conservation problems. Challenge topics are chosen by identifying opportunities where technology and innovation can address threats to ecosystems and the environment.