Petri Alava used to work in huge firms, selling everything from gardening tools to magazines while wearing ironed suits and leather shoes.

He currently manages a Finnish start-up where wearing socks to work is the standard, and he proudly wears a round-neck T-shirt made of recycled textiles tucked into some loose shorts. His company, Infinited Fiber, has made significant investments in a technique that may turn textiles into new clothing fiber from waste that would otherwise be burned or dumped in landfills. Global companies using the fiber, known as Infinna, currently include Patagonia, H&M, and Inditex, which controls Zara. Mr. Alava claims it is a high-quality textile material that eliminates a significant waste issue and looks and feels natural, like cotton. According to the non-profit Global Fashion Agenda, 92 million metric tons of textile waste are reportedly produced globally each year, and if present trends in apparel manufacturing are maintained, this number is expected to increase to over 134 million metric tons by 2030. According to Mr. Alava, the product is created using a multi-step, intricate process that begins with the destruction of old textiles and the elimination of synthetic components and dyes. In order to replace cotton and synthetic fibers in everything from shirts and dresses to denim jeans, this final fiber can subsequently be included in the conventional manufacturing methods employed by high-end manufacturers.

Large-scale production is suddenly a more likely option because of recent rapid technical developments, even though much of the science needed for creating the fiber has been known since the 1980s.