Tea-Shirt: Biodegradable Fiber From Tea By-product Developed

Posted: May 1 2016, 7:23am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Tea-Shirt: Biodegradable Fiber from Tea By-product Developed
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To cut down the waste that fashion industry generates, a team of US researchers has developed a new fibre from a green tea by-product that is 100 percent biodegradable.

Young-A Lee and her research team have designed a vest and shoe prototype from the cellulosic fibre grown in LeBaron Hall on the Iowa State University campus, US, and testing it if it is a viable alternative.

"Fashion is an ephemeral expression of culture, art and technology manifesting itself in form. Fashion companies keep producing new materials and clothing to fulfill consumers' desire and needs," Lee said.

"These items eventually go underground and take spaces of Earth like other trash," Lee, who is an associate professor of apparel, merchandising and design at Iowa State, added.

LeBaron Hall has plastic bins in which all trash is dumped. The bins contain a gel-like film consisting of cellulose fibers --- a byproduct of kombucha tea -- that feeds off a mixture of vinegar and sugar.

The cellulose fibre reduces waste by creating a continuous cycle of reuse or regeneration, what is known as cradle-to-cradle design. Even if clothing is recycled or repurposed, it still eventually ends up in the trash.

The material has been tested for other applications, such as cosmetics, foods and biomedical tissue for wound dressing but it is relatively new to the apparel industry.

The fact that the fibre is 100 percent biodegradable is a significant benefit for the fashion industry, which by its very nature generates a lot of waste.

Lee said she envisions a truly sustainable fabric or material that is biodegradable and goes back into the soil as a nutrient rather than taking up space in a landfill.

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