Let Me Eat Your Clothes
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
A new approach to the sustainable fashion lifecycle focuses not only on the types of materials used but also the disposal of those materials. This new approach is all about microbes, tiny life forms that have the potential to eat garments after they are thrown away.
One company experimenting with this approach is PrimaLoft, a brand known for its high-performance materials. According to Vanessa Mason, Senior VP of Engineering, "There are naturally occurring micro-organisms that will consume plastic over centuries, but it's not a desirable food source for them...It's more a choice of last resort." Because synthetic textiles, like the ones developed at PrimaLoft, greatly contribute to the problem of microplastics in the environment, Mason's team decided to take on the challenge of altering materials like polyester. Their goal: Make these materials an attractive food source to microbes.
After an investment of five year's time and a million dollars of research, PrimaLoft created a proprietary process where "they attach a simple sugar to the recycled polyester polymer." The entire process is confidential, but the company has begun to test the biodegradability of their new product. Using two laboratory environments, a landfill and a marine environment, they found that the PrimaLoft material biodegrades much faster than other comparable polyesters. In the landfill, they found that after a year and a half, 86% of the material biodegraded; and in approximately the same amount of time, 57% had biodegraded in the marine environment.
Even though these experiments are performed in closed environments where the full impact cannot be tracked, they are still the beginnings of a new technology that may counteract the pollution caused by synthetic fibers.
To learn more, read the New York Times article here.