Crafting organic waste for fashion
As an alternative to currently available PVC and PU-based “vegan leather” products, designer Riina O has developed a new material – SCOBY-compo. Which utilises the waste bacterial cellulose generated by local kombucha drink producers, re-processing these cultures into a more sustainable, vegan and leather-like material.
For ethical reasons, people often opt for non-animal-derived products made of so-called “vegan leather”, unaware that many vegan leather products are made from PVC and PU-based plastic which are very harmful to the environment.
In the context of the climate emergency, the fashion industry must switch to more sustainable practices, utilise waste streams and concentrate on more organic, natural and renewable resources. It is unacceptable for the industry to continue generating toxic materials and waste which take thousands of years to decompose and continues to devastate the wider environment and ecosystems.
Through rigorous and meticulous experimentation and the use of natural oils, waxes and organic compounds, the material they developed is water-resistant, flexible and strong. They enhanced the smell by using essential oils to develop a pleasant and unique scent of their own. The result is a fully commercial, market-ready product that can be created in large quantities as a viable alternative to leather for the fashion industry.
To evidence the viability of SCOBY-compo, Riina O crafted a collection of bags and purses that each demonstrate a different technique for production, from traditional stitching to modular assembly and liquid moulding.
Working closely with local industries, they aim to create a fully circular, closed-loop system where the organic waste material can be harvested, processed, sold and eventually home composted at the end of its life cycle, which rather than contaminating the environment, will nurture it.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Dr Elisa Mele, Senior Lecturer in Biomaterials, Loughborough University Dr Will Wise and Marc Gummer, Research Leader and Senior Lecturer, Institute for Creative Leather Technologies, University of Northampton Momo Kombucha and Wild Fizz Kombucha for supplying the bacterial cellulose from their kombucha production.
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