How Dole is transforming banana stems into vegan fashion

Food and beverage company Dole Sunshine Company has partnered with Filipino social enterprise Musa Fabric to turn its banana stalks, which would otherwise be considered waste, into plant-based fashion fabric.

According to Dole, nearly 15 million bananas are grown in the Philippines annually for consumers around the world, but the banana stalks are left behind. While some stems are used to regenerate the soil in which they are grown, over 4.4 million banana stems are wasted every year. Together, Dole and Musa aim to recycle these fruit scraps from Dole’s banana plantations into “purpose fibers”.

Founded in 2020 by designer Joy Soo, Musa Fabric makes its fabrics exclusively with banana fibers. All of his tribal-fashioned art pieces are woven by inmates within the correctional facilities of Davao del Norte. Weaving banana fibers for textiles is a centuries-old tradition, and Soo revived the tradition as part of her desire to help provide income and skills to inmates and marginalized communities.



As part of the partnership, Dole and Musa are providing a stable source of income to more than 100 people, including marginalized communities in the Bukidnon Highlands and Davao Penal Colony inmates, while offering conscious consumers sustainable fashion options, including clothes, bags, hats, shoes and other accessories. The first pieces in the Dole-Musa product line debuted on the runway at New York Fashion Week earlier this year.

“Our show of fashion products developed with banana waste fibers was widely acclaimed at New York Fashion Week,” Joy Soo, founder of Musa Fabric, said in a statement. “Consumers around the world are becoming more aware of their choices and have begun to demand fashion options that are respectful of the planet and people. The collaboration with Dole Sunshine Company is very important to highlight the applications of recycled banana fibers. “

Banana waste for sustainable vegan fashion

The partnership includes working with the non-profit Kasilak Development Foundation to identify members of marginalized communities in the Bukidnon highlands and educate them on the banana fiber extraction process. Musa will train all identified beneficiaries in Bukidnon and the next thread extracted from the waste will be sent to the Davao penal colony, where more than 100 male and female prisoners will weave the thread into fabric.

Next, the woven fabric will be developed into clothing and fashion accessories, which Dole says will be worth over $ 50 million, by the same beneficiaries as Bukidnon. The finished fashion products will be sold through Musa Fabric to knowledgeable consumers in multiple countries around the world.



Dole’s commitment to zero waste

The partnership is part of Dole’s goal of not losing fruit by 2025 in an effort to reduce its food waste and also contributes to a circular economy by using waste materials to produce sustainable materials. “In addition to working to reduce fruit loss to zero by 2025, the Dole Promise also includes a commitment to create shared value for all of our stakeholders,” said Christian Wiegele, president of Fresh Produce Group, Dole Sunshine Company. “Our partnership with Musa Fabric allows us not only to reduce, but also to recycle and reuse banana waste, and also to create a sustainable source of income and employment for the local community, while increasing the employability of prison inmates. Davao penal colony after their release, making this move much more meaningful and purposeful.

Last year, Dole partnered with Ananas Anam, the London company behind the innovative vegan pineapple skin Piñatex, to put pineapple leaves from Dole farms in the Philippines to good use. Dole’s farm in the Philippines is one of the largest pineapple plantations in the world and, through this particular collaboration, Ananas Anam collects the leaves of the pineapple plants collected by Dole, which are washed, dried and processed to create a non-woven net for form the basis of sustainable Piñatex material.

Developed by Spanish designer Carmen Hijosa in 2016, Piñatex is used as a base for specialized finishing, such as pigment treatment and coatings to create colorful, durable and waterproof vegan leather. Piñatex is now used by fashion brands such as H&M, Hugo Boss and Nike.

For more information on sustainable vegan fashion, read:
Two guys in Mexico just created vegan skin from Cactus
Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger Join the plastic-free vegan leather movement
Old Navy is now making plant-based sandals from sugar cane

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