DesignTex Compostable Textile

Project Description

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) was launched in 1995 with the design of a compostable textile for Designtex. The manufacturer Rohner Textil (now owned by Gessner AG) had been forced to treat product scraps as hazardous waste due to the use of problematic and hazardous dyes that were regulated in Switzerland. Using the Cradle to Cradle® design principle of ‘Waste Equals Food,’ William McDonough and Michael Braungart sought materials to put in the fabric that would be ‘biological nutrients’ for people and the planet.

About the Process

MBDC asked various dye suppliers to share the full formulation of all dyes used by Rohner Textil in order to evaluate all ingredients for toxicity to human and environmental health. Ciba-Geigy was the only one to agree to share its propietary formulations. MBDC analyzed hundreds of chemicals and then selected 16 nontoxic dyes that would be used to recreate the fabric line.

The resulting compostable textile, Climatex® LifeCycle, uses only rapidly renewable, natural materials (wool and ramie) and nontoxic dyes. Instead of becoming hazardous waste, the scraps are now shredded into a felt-like sheet and sold to local farmers and gardeners as mulch.


By 2002, sales of Climatex Lifecycle accounted for one- third of Rohner Textil’s approximately $8 million in revenues.

Waste disposal costs were drastically reduced by eliminating the need to ship hazardous waste to Spain or to a Swiss regulated incinerator.

Overall production costs were lowered by simplifying dye selection and avoiding the handling of toxic chemicals.

Regulators inspecting the factory found that the water coming out of the factory was as clean or cleaner than the potable water coming into the factory.

Relationships with the community improved by engaging their local stakeholders and becoming better stewards of the regional resources.