Saltyco Bets on Revolutionizing Outerwear With Bulrush

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Saltyco Bets on Revolutionizing Outerwear With Bulrush
Saltyco Bets on Revolutionizing Outerwear With Bulrush

London-based material science company Saltyco is aiming to help the outerwear industry turn the page on animal cruelty by replacing down feathers with fiber made from bulrush.

Bulrush, also known as reedmace, is a plant that grows a brown sausage-shaped spongy head, commonly grows in marshes and peatlands across the U.K. Saltyco is using it for manufacturing a new material called BioPuff, which offers the same light weightiness, warmth, and water-resistance associated with down feather.

The company, along with the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester, and North Merseyside, a local farmer, and a land owner are teaming up to grow the plant on a 12-acre site in a first trial of its kind. The project has received a £400,000 (approximately $509,000) grant from the U.K. government.

Last year, BioPuff won the H&M Foundation Global Change Award and was also used in a small collection by YOOX. In the long term, if the project is successful, it has the potential to revolutionize how outerwear is made around the globe. 

Making a single puffer jacket requires just 20 bulrush heads, making it a much cheaper and sustainable alternative to down feathers.

“The bulrush has an amazing high-volume structure,” said Finlay Duncan, co-founder of Saltyco. “Its seed heads can expand about 300 times in size. It has these umbrella-like structures that mimic the natural structure of goosedown in terms of providing that nice lofty, fluffy feeling.”

The widespread use of bulrush could also bring much-needed financial relief to struggling farmers, who have been farming on lowland peat that was drained five decades ago to make room for agriculture. Many of these farmers have seen the annual yield of their farmland deplete.

“I’ve been farming this land for 35 years and have seen steadily declining yields and increasing difficulty finding a market for traditional crops,” said Steve Denneny, who will be growing the bulrush crop on land owned by the Peel Group. “I think wetter farming could be the future for a lot of lowland agricultural peat, and it’s great to be part of it right at the start.”

According to the Wildlife Trust, the rewetting of peats in the northwest U.K. will save 2,800 tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 and improve biodiversity. 

“If we can make this trial successful and upscale it, there is so much lowland peat in the U.K. that is crying out to be rewetted, both environmentally and economically,” said Mike Longden of the Wildlife Trust.

Photo credit: Saltyco

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