Episode 8

Natural Fiber Welding: Driving Textile and Design Innovation with Plastic-free High-performance Materials

Natural Fiber Welding invents and manufactures sustainable materials from plants. Beginning with inherently circular, natural ingredients, NFW is making a material-rich, plastic-free future possible.

48 minutes | Mar. 22, 2023

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Brent Baker is the Lead of New Business Development for MIRUM®, Natural Fiber Welding’s (NFW) categorically new, plant-based, and plastic-free leather alternative material. Brent enables designers and makers around the world to reduce reliance on plastics and animal products and to shrink their footprints and expand their creative palettes. In an industry awash with incremental solutions, NFW is driving a systems-level shift away from petroleum-derived products and toxic chemistries with their family of plastic-free materials.

Outside of MIRUM®, NFW is bringing to scale CLARUS®, a novel yarn treatment technology that imbues natural fibers with the performance of synthetics without the plastic, PLIANT® a 100% bio-based, recyclable, and moldable outsole for footwear, and TUNERA®, a 100% bio-based foam to replace plastic composites for internal components for consumer products.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Brent Baker talks about Natural Fiber Welding’s natural, plastic-free products
  • How Natural Fiber Welding manufactures MIRUM® to emit 10 times less carbon than traditional plastic-based products
  • The challenges associated with scaling MIRUM®’s production process
  • How NFW partners with mission-aligned brands to support sustainable, end-to-end solutions
  • Brent explains the pros and cons of being first-to-market

In this episode…

Vegan leather has grown in popularity as people have become more concerned with animal cruelty and the leather industry’s environmental impact. Until recently, vegan leathers were often manufactured using traditional technology to produce leather-like synthetic materials made from plastic. While these materials were completely animal free, their synthetic composition and manufacturing process made them far from sustainable. The emergence of plant-based leather made from materials like pineapple or apple skins made significant strides toward sustainability; however, these products often contain synthetic materials such as polyurethane, which has been added to improve durability. Some brands that promote their use of such materials as an eco-friendly alternative to animal-based leather have been accused of greenwashing. So, how can you incorporate animal-free leather into your products while avoiding claims of greenwashing?

Brent Baker says that having an intentional and distinct mission is key when creating innovative new products to drive systemic change. Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) is fundamentally changing the way materials are made with their novel technologies for bonding, mixing, and forming plant-based inputs into sustainable, high-performance materials. Through the production of its proprietary, 100% plastic-free material, MIRUM®, NFW emits 10 times fewer greenhouse gases than synthetic leather-like materials and conventional chrome-tanned leather. Instead of utilizing plastics as a binding system, the company employs rubber tree sap and a plant-based curative made from naturally-derived oils and waxes. As a substitute for animal pigments, NFW dyes its products using upcycled agriculture waste and minerals, including charcoal, wood shavings, and stone. The final result is a high-quality, smooth, and durable 100% natural leather product.

Resources mentioned in this episode: