Critical Review Proposal

Textiles 3: Research- Assignment 5

Gillian Morris

Student No 511388

Critical Review- Research Proposal

Title: Material Innovation and the Environment: Positive Change?

El Anatsui (2002) Man’s Cloth: Metal Installation-Woven Wall Hanging. Aluminium (Bottle Caps) and Copper Wire (297cm x 374cm)

How can innovative materials support a more environmentally sustainable way of living?

How are materials being used in an innovative context using modern day technology and traditional processes?

What is driving the application of innovative materials and how has this been informed by the past and influenced by the present and future?

What role can the individual play in the progressive use of materials to promote environmental sustainability?

Through an investigative process the relationship we have with materials and the environment can be explored.

There is a need for urgent change to rethink the use of materials including single use plastics, to utilise new materials and making in innovative ways to support the environment.  To promote and optimise our relationship with textile function and durability to encourage reuse, repurposing, upcycling, and recycling which can facilitate greater global sustainability and responsibility and prevent unnecessary pollution and waste.

Dutch start-up Plasticiet terrazzo-like material from recycled plastic for use in interior design (2018)


With the recent scale of technological advancement, the whole arena of textiles has been widened significantly to encapsulate a range of fields including science and engineering. Such technological development has enabled materials to be used in ways not previously possible for architects, interior designers, and artists. Hong Kong-based designer and textile experimentalist Elaine Yan Ling Ng is using nature-inspired biomimicry and digital weaving technology to create new materials. At the same time Yan, founder of The Fabrick Lab in Kwai Chung, is attempting to create a socially sustainable materials ecosystem by empowering women, using local materials, and harnessing heritage craft techniques. For Sensus, a project commissioned by Hong Kong Design Centre in 2017 and exhibited at the influential Salone del Mobile design fair in Milan, The Fabrick Lab brought together designers, robot engineers and knitted textile programmers to showcase cutting edge technologies in three living prototypes (Tomlinson & SK, 2017).

The use of such technological advancement in man-made materials and making can benefit the environment both inside the home and within the wider environment. Graphene for example has a host of qualities – it is thin, strong, transparent, dense and a good conductor of electricity to name a few. The use of graphene in 2D nanotechnology is made from carbon atoms and when arranged in a honeycomb layer has the potential to improve the thermal regulation of buildings to help prevent unnecessary heat loss and energy use. Graphene can also be added to paint for interior surfaces which prevents heat being radiated through walls to reduce the need for air conditioning. In addition to this a range of fabrics have been developed to mimic natural fibres and fabrics which offer enhanced properties including durability, a longer lifespan, improved health, and safety qualities with a reduced impact on the environment.

Dedar’s Zeus fabric looks like and feels like linen but is woven from Trevira CS. Several of the designer fabric collections are manufactured using Trevira CS, the brand name of inherently flame-retardant polyester, which is frequently used as the composition of fabrics intended for hotels and other commercial projects.

Background Research

As stated by Professor Michael Shaver, Professor of Polymer Science, University of Manchester Plastics are often demonised, but are frequently a lower energy alternative due to their ease of creation and processing and their low weight minimising the impact of their transport. But without an end-of-life circularity, global waste will continue to grow. We must make smart choices to minimise the carbon footprint of these materials, to improve our management of waste, to increase recycling and upcycling rates alongside repurposing plastic (2019)

The current dependency on single use plastics is not sustainable and because of the durability of the polymers involved, substantial quantities of discarded single use plastics are accumulating as debris in landfills and in natural habitats worldwide especially in the oceans and on the coasts with no capacity to biodegrade for years. Plastics are organic polymers derived from petroleum, these single use plastic materials have been found to be the major macroscopic pollutants world-wide in many published reports including McDermid and McMullen, 2004; Moorce et al., 2001, Barnes, 2005; Henderson, 2001; Ericksson and Burton 2003; Otley and Ingham, 2003 to name a few (Vikas and Dwarakish, 2015). Due to the poor waste management practices all around the world both the macro (25mm+) and nano (-100mm) sizes of broken-down pieces of plastic have created a devasting legacy on marine ecosystems and biodiversity of which a primary source is textile fibres (Garaba and Dierssen, 2018).

The European Clothing Action Plan launched in May 2016 has set out to encourage industry, scientists, and creatives to reinvent how we design and produce textile products, rethink how we use and consume products and redefine reuse and recycling of these products (, 2016).

With over 100 billion items of clothing produced each year, creatives have resorted to using old garments in product design as a way of keeping the surplus textiles from being thrown away. Sophie Rowley, who took discarded denim jean offcuts and made them into a series of tables featuring mottled patterns like marble (Hitti, 2019).

The demand for textile products continues to increase irrespective of the costs to the environment, a trend which is likely to continue due to population growth and economic development. Around 63% of textile fibres are derived from petrochemicals and the production of such textiles give rise to significant CO2 emissions (Lenzing, 2017). Much of the remaining 37% is centred upon the production of cotton which depletes the immediate environment of water and creates toxic pollution with the use of pesticides. Not only that but 95% of textiles landfilled could have been recycled. Due to such challenges, there is a pressing need to establish a different relationship with all textiles (Sajn, 2019). The integration of textiles within a circular economy has been acknowledged as the way forward.

studied cases and their circular strategy.
Source: adapted from Achterberg et al. (2016).

From such a review of innovative materials and making in the twenty-first century the arena of textiles can be re-evaluated given the scale of recent change and development, which has altered and expanded what can now be considered textiles. This then has implications for our relationship with textiles, what they are, how they are perceived and how they can best be used and reused to improve the environment.  

Aims and Objectives

It is hoped that this critical literature review will generate supporting evidence for a more environmentally sound relationship and joined up ways of working with the making of materials and their use and reuse, to highlight further the need to utilise raw resources, to generate production processes and systems of reuse to minimise waste and to promote sustainability. This aim is in accordance with the governments twenty-five-year environment plan objectives to increase resource efficiency and reduce pollution and waste. To make sure that resources are used more efficiently and kept in use for longer to minimise waste and reduce its environmental impacts by promoting reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling. To work towards eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, to secure clean, healthy, productive, and biologically diverse seas and oceans (HM Government, 2018).

Research Methodology

In considering the research topic under investigation a comprehensive literature review (CLR) will be used as the main research methodology. This research process will use books, journal articles, reviews, reports, online documents, podcasts, and a range of relevant literature alongside related imagery, artwork, talks and presentations as appropriate to the research topic. Through using the Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Review: A Multimodal and Cultural Approach by Onwuegbuzie and Frels (2016) this model will help to structure the critical review to synthesise the data collected thematically rather than summarising in isolation, to conceptualise and integrate a range of methodologies through data collection. This model involves culture, ethics, multimodalities, my identity as a researcher including my values, beliefs, and experiences.

The Three Phases of the Seven-Step Model-Comprehensive Literature Review

The CLR process subdivided into the following three phases:

Exploration, Interpretation, and Communication.

Exploration Phase

Step 1: Exploring Beliefs and Topics

Step 2: Initiating the Search

Step 3: Storing and Organizing Information

Step 4: Selecting/Deselecting Information

Step 5: Expanding the Search to Include One or More MODES (Media, Observation(s), Documents, Expert(s), Secondary Data)

Interpretation Phase

Step 6: Analysing and Synthesising Information

Communication Phase

Step 7: Presenting the CLR Report   

As stated by Onwuegbuzie and Frels (2016) as a culturally progressive researcher it is an ethical responsibility to be able to justify each decision I make, without changing the original intentions of the authors whose resources I synthesise. The seven-step model is layered within an ethical approach, multimodal texts, settings, and the identity of the literature reviewer as an original thinker, a critical and reflexive reviewer. This model will be used as a methodology, mixed research method, and as a research tool (p.55-56).

Hall and Howard’s (2008) four core principles for synergistic approaches will be followed. A comprehensive literature review will be undertaken by using mixed research methods. A dialectic approach will be used where multiple philosophical assumptions and stances are intertwined as applicable with both quantitative and qualitative data. Key philosophical assumptions will inform interpretive frameworks including how problems are formulated, research questions studied and how information is sought and responded to. This will include postmodernism which sets knowledge and understanding within the conditions of the world today with multiple perspectives as laid out by Foucault, Derrida, lyotard, Giroux and Freire with multiple meanings of language. There is also the need to take a pragmatic approach within an interpretative framework based upon the outcomes of the literature review to make known the topic under investigation, to choose the methods, techniques and procedures of research that best meet their needs and purposes to suit the contemporary landscape in social and political contexts (Gelo, 2012).


Achterberg, E., Hinfelaar, J. and Bocken, N. (2016) Master Circular Business with theValue Hill. White Paper, p. 18. Report available at:  (Accessed 16th February 2020)

The British Tapestry Group (2019) Exhibitions-Contemporary Woven Tapestry. Available at (Accessed 15th February 2020)

Garaba, S.P. and Dierssen, H.M. (2018) An Airborne Remote Sensing Case Study of Synthetic Hydrocarbon Detection using Short Wave Infrared Absorption Features from Marine-Harvested Macro- and Microplastics. Remote Sensing of Environment. 205, pp.224-235

Gelo, G. (2012) On Research Methods and their Philosophical Assumptions: Raising the Consciousness of Researchers again. Psychotherapy and Social Science: Journal of Qualitative Research and Clinical Practice. 14 (2), pp.111–130

Hall, B. and Howard, K. (2008) A Synergistic Approach. Journal of Mixed Methods Research. 2 (3), pp.248-269

Hitti, N. (2019) Dezeen’s Top Ten Innovative Materials of 2019. Available at (Accessed 17th February 2020)

HM Government (2018) A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. Available at  (Accessed 28th March 2020)

Keane-Cowell, Simon. (2013) Looming Large: Innovation in New Textile Design. Available at (Accessed 17th February 2020)

Lenzing (2017) Think and Act Sustainably. Available at (Accessed 28th March 2020)

Moorhouse, Debbie and Moorhouse, Danielle. (2017) Sustainable Design: Circular Economy in Fashion and Textiles, The Design Journal, 20:sup1, S1948-S1959, DOI: 10.1080/14606925.2017.1352713

National Trust for Scotland (2020) Turning the Tide. Edinburgh: National Trust for Scotland.

Onwuegbuzie, A.J. and Frels R. (2016) Seven Steps to a Comprehensive Literature Review: A Multimodal and Cultural Approach. First Edition. London. Sage Publications Ltd.

Sajn, Nikolina. (2019) Environmental Impact of the Textile and Clothing Industry. Available at  (Accessed 16th February 2020)

Shaver, Michael (2019) Professor of Polymer Science-Research.  Available at               (Accessed 30th January 2020)

Shaver, Michael (2019) Think Plastic: Materials and Making-Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Available at  (Accessed 30th January 2020)

Tomlinson, P. and SK, Christina. (2017) How New Furniture materials are transforming home interiors. Available at (Accessed 17th February 2020)

Wrap-Working together for a world without waste (2019) Textiles Circular Economy. Available at (Accessed 16th February 2020)

Waste2Wear (20200 Explore Innovative Textiles made from Recycled Plastics. Available at (Accessed 16th February 2020)

Vikas, M. and Dwarakish, A. (2015) Coastal Pollution: A Review. Science DirectAquatic Procedia. 4 (1), pp.381-388

Zero Waste Scotland (2019) Corporate Plan (2019-2023). Available at (Accessed 15th February 2020)

Zero Waste Scotland (2019) Working with Groups. Available at  (Accessed 15th February 2020)

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