On a trip to the Philippines, leather expert Carmen Hijosa visited the Philippines and had an epiphany. The Philippines grows a lot of pineapples—and ends up with a lot of wasted pineapple leaves. The leaves are strong, flexible, and perfect for turning into a plant-based leather alternative.
Piñatex has clear advantages for the environment. “It’s created from a byproduct of agriculture, meaning it’s a total waste product,” Hijosa says. “This really means that in order to have Piñatex, a textile, we don’t have to use any land, water, pesticides, fertilizers … we are actually taking a waste material and ‘upscaling’ it, meaning that we’re giving it added value.”
And because pineapple leaves would normally be wasted, turning them into leather is an extra source of income for farmers. After farmers take the first step in processing the leaves, separating the long fibers, they also end up with biomass that can be used as fertilizer back in the pineapple fields.
Hijosa worked with local factories to set up production. At factories, the material is made into rolls that can be used for shoes, handbags, car or airplane seats, or anything else that would typically be made from real leather. Companies like Puma and Camper have made prototypes with the material, and others are already using it.