Corn fibre is a by-product of the food industry. It is made by fermenting the plant sugars from corn/maize crop. A specific residue left over after the sugar fermentation process is used and chemically converted into a polylactide, a high-performance polymer. In other words, the fibre content of corn fabric comes from its extracted polylactide polymer component and not from the fibrous leafy exterior as some may assume.
While corn fibre comes from a natural source, it is transformed chemically, making it a type of man-made fabric, therefore is not 100% natural. There are positive and negative aspects of the fibre. While the growth of corn is renewable and can be managed sustainably, it can rely on the use of pesticides, and large amounts of water and land. However, corn uses approximately half the amount of energy as conventional or organic cotton to produce, and the fibre extraction process can be done in a closed-loop chemical system without the use of fossil fuel resources like synthetic fabrics.
When made into a fabric, corn is good at moisture management and low in odour retention. It is breathable and comfortable, and displays an elegant drape when worn. The versatile fibre can can be spun and woven into both light and heavyweight fabrics, finding the perfect balance between strength and flexibility. As well as being naturally flame retardant, corn dyes well, and has a strong resistance to UV light meaning it will not fade easily. Similar to cotton, it can be laundered using standard washing methods, and dries quickly without forming severe wrinkles.
Other advantages to corn fibre is the composability of its waste products, and the circular use of chemicals post production. Under the right conditions the complete cycle of production, consumption, re-use and disposal of corn fibre can be done without damaging the environment. By not depending on fossil fuels, corn can be grown and manufactured into a fibre and other by-products in a comparatively stable economy.
There remains some debate over defining the corn fabric and similar man-made fabrics from natural sources as 'eco-friendly', but there is significant acceptance by customers and manufacturers for it as being 'more sustainable' than many other fabrics. Any type of growth in environmental protection and fibre development of this kind is worth nurturing for future development.
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