Posted by Big Gav in bioplastic
The clothes we buy - many of them inexpensive and discarded with little heartache - are becoming an environmental hazard to rival plastic bags. In Britain, 2 million tonnes of textiles, mostly clothes, are ''shovelled'' into landfill every year, says Lucy Siegle, the author of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
However, most fabrics do not degrade in a hurry, nor do they enrich the soil.
Enter compostable clothing - items made from plant-based fibres that break down relatively quickly and non-toxically. It is a nascent industry - and not quite all it is cracked up to be - but the day when it is possible to throw old clothes into the compost bin with the potato peelings does seem to be drawing closer.
Manufacturers of sports clothing have been early adopters of eco gestures. Patagonia has been selling fleeces made from recycled plastic bottles for years. Billabong has used the same material to make boardshorts. Nike has trumpeted its World Cup jerseys made from recycled landfill. Now, Puma chief executive Franz Koch has announced the brand will be ''able to bring the first shoes, T-shirts and bags that are either compostable or recyclable'' to market.
Puma is claiming a first but compostable fabrics and clothes have been available for some time. Granted, they have been fringe dwellers and Puma might be first to make them mainstream.
Ingeo, for example, is a biodegradable polymer made from corn. It is suitable for a range of products, including food packaging and bottles, but its fabric form has been used by German sportswear brand Salewa and Target in the US, among others. Ingeo has green credentials for its compostability and the fact it is oil-free, but has been criticised over its use of genetically modified corn. The fabric is also unsuitable for a home compost bin, requiring industrial-scale attention.
At this year's Miami Fashion Week, Linda Loudermilk - dubbed ''the Vivienne Westwood of eco'' by Elle magazine - put two compostable swimsuits on the catwalk. The models looked a bit like they were wrapped in sheets of nori, and it is hard to say how well the designs would hold up in surf or during laps in a chlorinated swimming pool, but they could be ideal for poolside cocktail consumption. It was reported the fabric would decompose under soil in 180 days and not while on the body.
''Wear it! Plant it! Then eat it!'' runs the sales pitch for the Spudcoat, a hooded poncho-style raincoat made from bioplastic derived from potato starch and other natural resources. When you are sick of the coat, you plant it and a clay seed ball integrated into the structure should bloom. Finally, the remainder decomposes into the soil. No waste. The coat is also embossed with the words ''I was a potato'' - intended to prompt questions about the coat and so provide its wearers with an opportunity to sing the praises of bioplastics.
German microbiology student turned fashion designer Anke Domaske hit the headlines this year for her Qmilch, a fabric made from milk protein. Milk-based fabrics have been around for decades but have included a lot of acrylic material. Domaske's version is uniquely organic and was originally intended as a soothing alternative for people with sensitive skin. Apparently, it is very soft - and compostable. Domaske has used it in her clothing line, Mademoiselle Chi Chi, and it is being promoted as a ''climate textile'' for sleepwear and manchester.