Fashion designers are known to be one of the top polluters when it comes to our environment. According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 20 percent of global waste-water and 10 percent of global carbon emissions which is more than that of international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Experts say there’s an urgent need to develop eco-friendly alternatives. According to the Italian agricultural association Coldiretti, the country wastes an estimated 30 million tons of dairy each year.
Antonella Bellina, 39, has developed a method of converting milk protein into a silky fiber. She was inspired five years ago while making her morning coffee.
“I opened the fridge and found that the milk had expired,” Bellina recalled. “I thought, ‘why do I have to throw this in the trash? I can use this.’”
One T-shirt takes less than half a gallon of milk to make. The final product is enticingly soft, and crucially, doesn’t smell like sour milk.
The transformation begins with the milk heated to exactly 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, citric acid is added to separate the whey from the protein. At this stage, it looks and smells just like old, lumpy milk you might find at the back of the fridge.
The casein protein is then strained, dried and ground into powder. The next step is a trade secret where a machine described as “a giant cotton candy spinner” whips the powder into a fiber. Finally, it’s twisted into thread and woven into fabric.
“The first thing people do is smell it,” Bellina said, laughing.
Milk fiber isn’t new. It was invented in the 1930s as a replacement for wool in fascist Benito Mussolini’s resource-starved Italy. But early prototypes were chemical-heavy, with factories using substances like formaldehyde to strengthen the fabric. Bellina said technological advancements have allowed her to revolutionize this process.
“Our fabric is now 100 percent chemical-free,” she added. “Even our dyes are from natural sources like blueberries and red onion.”
Prof. Kate Fletcher, who specializes in sustainability at the London College of Fashion, described casein fiber as a “really interesting step in a transition period while we figure out how to handle fashion provision with less.”
Duedilatte produces fabric as well as T-shirts and baby outfits, which cost around $50 and $30 respectively. The range is currently only available in Italy but the company hopes to enter the international market later this year.
Antonella Bellina is also planning to expand the milk fiber range into bedding and even medical products like bandages.
Presently, Duedilatte is only available in Italy but plans are to expand into the global markets. The items are described as super-soft.
Ref. NBC News, lifeandsoulmagazine.com, mnnofa.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via euronews.com