Sustainable Textiles – its Complex!


The John Horsfall team discuss why there isn’t just a single solution to single-use textiles….

As textile experts John Horsfall are committed to finding eco-conscious, sustainable inflight options that create a big impact – in terms of design, not on the environment! 

The conversation around sustainable airline textiles is complex and can be confusing for the uninitiated. Plastic free packaging, recycled fibres, biodegradable fabrics, rotable vs disposable etc… the list can seem endless; so, where do we start? 



Recycled fibres are the first approach. Rotable fleece blankets can be made from recycled PET (polyester derived from discarded plastic bottles) and are completely indistinguishable from the usual virgin fibre polyester fleece blankets. So, if that is the type of blanket your airline needs, then you are taking 20-30 plastic bottles out of circulation each time one is made. This seems like a great solution to make a soft, cosy, and completely serviceable airline product, doesn’t it? 

But another approach looks at the overall life cycle of a blanket. A fleece blanket will stay fresh for around 30 wash cycles. If you use the same 100% recycled Polyester but in a woven blanket, the tighter spun yarn and smoother handle mean that the blanket can be washed for around 100 cycles! Investing in longevity could be considered a more environmentally sustainable option 



John Horsfall Business Development Manager Ellie Parkes has another environmental consideration in mind – micro plastics in the water supply, “Fleece fabrics, however they are made, are a great product; but they do still shed micro fibres during laundry. The tightly spun yarn and fabric construction of a woven blanket sheds far fewer fibres – and provides an ideal platform for interesting textures or strong all over design.”  

Sustainable thoughts should also apply to laundry – an important factor when considering a rotable product of any type. New technology in laundry machinery has seen water use steadily decreased over the last few decades, and as much water as possible is recycled back into the system. Fabrics that take very little processing to launder and dry quickly are advantageous both from sustainable point of view and a cost perspective. 



What about biodegradable options? Single use headrest covers and pillow covers are a common sight on low cost and economy flights. Sourcing a 100% naturally biodegradable alternative for disposable items could be an eco-friendly and sustainable solution. John Horsfall Product Manager, Kirsty Sumner says, “The key is naturally biodegradable. We have new product – BioFibre that fits the bill perfectly. Its 100% natural, made from wood fibre and it can be recycled like paper – or it will biodegrade in less than a year, with no chemicals or special instructions.” 



Or you could replace the disposable paper type product with a PU/leather look headrest. These don’t require the in-service handling of traditional rotable or disposable products – they won’t need to be laundered or removed/disposed of after each flight. They can also be made from recycled materials and hygienically cleaned with disinfectant in the same way as seats and hard surfaces in the aircraft.  

Last but not least, packaging is also an important issue. John Horsfall have been developing ideas to remove the plastic wrapping from its products for a number of years and are thrilled that, even in the current climate, the airline industry are still thinking of ways to minimize the amount of materials, earth’s resources and energy that they use and the amount of waste their actions produce. 



By considering the whole life of a product, from initial outlay, ‘in-service’ cost and finally discarding it, an airline can significantly reduce the amount of material/resources used both in making the product and disposing of it.  

At John Horsfall design we can make and deliver a sustainable solution suitable for most airlines budget helping them to be well on the way to achieving their sustainability target.