Clothing tech company Vollebak have come up with a new material that could positively change how the fashion industry deals with its waste. Founded by twin brothers Nick and Steve Tidball, Vollebak is well known for using science and technology, to disrupt the smart textile world. Famously, the founders once followed in the footsteps of scientists and experimented with Graphene textile technology. The outcome was a graphene-coated jacket which they released as an experimental prototype, a first step towards creating bionic clothing that is both bulletproof and intelligent.
Most recently Vollebak announced the creation of a low-impact t-shirt. Designed to be one of the answers to fashion’s waste problem, I do wonder whether the t-shirt will be able to help consumers become more conscious about the life cycle of their garments?
The Birth Of The Low-impact T-shirt
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose goal is to protect human health and the environment, only 14.2% of clothes and shoes were recycled in 2015. EPA also found that 11.9 million tonnes of clothing and footwear were thrown away that same year with about 8.2 million tonnes ending up in landfills. The good news is that Vollebak’s ‘good for the planet’ t-shirt could be the answer many conscious consumers have been hoping for. It promises to leave no record of its existence in stark contrast to the enormous waste currently left by the fashion industry.
Made from algae grown in bioreactors, pulped eucalyptus and beech from sustainably managed forests, the 100% biodegradable tee will only take 12 weeks to degrade. This is because it has been created using natural materials that make it possible for it to return to nature once it reaches the end of its lifespan. Basically, I could bury the Vollebak t-shirt in the garden and know that it will leave no trace.
Aspiring to cut down on the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills Tidball shared the process. He explained that they separated the algae, leaving a soupy algae paste. The paste was then dried in the sun to create a fine powder which was then mixed with a water-based binder to make algae ink. He reveals that the ink is printed onto a shirt that is made of wood pulp turned into a fibre, yarn, and finally fabric. “All the wood is harvested from sustainable forestry plantations and certified by both the Forestry Sustainability Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)”, said Tidball.
It all sounds great, but one could argue that natural fibres like cotton, wool, and silk are biodegradable too. On this Tidball pointed out that most of these fibres have been dyed with chemicals that can filter into the soil. Confirming that every element of the Vollebak tee has been made from organic matter Tidball said:
“There is no dye, ink, or chemicals to go into the soil. Just plants and algae which are an organic matter”.
Besides promising to be the better t-shirt, the founders are also hoping that their game-changing tee will make some sort of psychological impact on the everyday consumer by educating them on what is possible. “While we’ve made clothing with some of the most cutting-edge materials on Earth [..] what we wanted to do here is demonstrate that natural materials can be just as cutting-edge,” explained Tidball. Adding: “Our idea with all our clothing is to cut down on the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills and [..] make people think differently about how long they could or should own a piece of clothing for.”
By showing what is possible, Vollebak hopes that their t-shirt not only serves as a great example of how unwanted garments do not need to take decades or centuries to biodegrade, but that it will also encourage them to think about their clothing differently when it comes to creating less waste.