25 Jun 2012

New upholstery fabric for Chinese markets

6:27 am on 25 June 2012

A new hardwearing upholstery fabric, blended from New Zealand wool and Chinese rice straw, could be hitting lucrative Chinese markets in months.

The product is the latest development from a product design company in Wellington, The Formary, which transforms industrial waste fibres into fabrics.

The company previously worked with Starbucks to create a fabric from New Zealand wool and used jute coffee sacks.

Director Bernadette Casey says most of China's waste rice straw is burnt at harvest time at the moment, but the Ministry of Agriculture there wants to reuse 75% of it by 2015.

She says they've found that blending it with strong New Zealand wool products a high quality fabric.

Ms Casey says rice straw is anti-microbial and it's high in silica which means it's high in fire resistance.

The Formary is now working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade on a letter of co-operation with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

Ms Casey says that through the Ministry of Agriculture ,her company has been introduced to a state owned rice production company and The Formary is developing a commercial agreement with them.

She says the company is very keen to have the process rolled out at the next rice harvest in October.

Market gap seen

Ms Casey says the blended fibre fabric is expected to fill a gap in a fast-growing and potentially lucrative market.

She says China is building eco-cities, such as that in Tianjin which will house around 350,000 people.

Ms Casey says environmentally certified products will be in demand in these eco-cities.

She says there's also demand in Europe and the United States where, if there is recycled content with environmental certification that's put into buildings, it's possible to get federal tax rebates.