The problem of fashion pollution – can biology fix it? – Or let’s eat PET!

Fashion pollution is a severe issue: Did you know that a huge amounts of micro-plastics are produced through our washing machines? Textiles from synthetic materials like polyester loose fibers during the washing process, getting into the water. After a long journey those micro-plastics end up in the oceans. And finally they come back to us through our food chain. Bon Appetite….

Also beyond micro-plastics, the fashion industry has a huge issue of pollution. The fashion production process uses outrageous amounts of chemicals and water. So, it’s time that we start questioning this! We have the opportunity to demand change. We only need to reduce our endless hunger for fast fashion. Thus, next time you go for shopping clothes, think twice, if you really need it! Beyond that, it is about applying new ways of fashion production including new materials.

Biological solutions against fashion pollution

Natsai Audrey Chieza, designer and researcher, that crosses the boundaries between technology, biology, design and cultural studies, is exploring such new materials. She believes that petroleum based systems will soon be replaced through biological ones. Designing with a living systems, Chieza found bacterias that are able to dye clothes – reducing the needed outrages chemical and water usage almost to zero! Watch her TED video to get the whole picture:


And there are other inspiring examples: MicoWorks replaces leather from animals through one produced by mushrooms, resulting in a versvital high performance material. Bolt Threats engineered a yeast to produce spider-silk protein based on some extreme biomimicry. Their yarn provides water-resistance, stretchability and super strength.

Bacteria eating PET

The potential for bio-based industries is huge, not only for the issue of fashion pollution. A year ago, Japanese researchers have found a bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis. It breaks down plastic by using two enzymes to hydrolyze PET and a primary reaction intermediate, eventually yielding basic building blocks for growth. The bacteria were able to almost completely degrade a thin film of PET after six weeks at a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Thus, if we manage to scale whose bacteria securely, we might be a huge step further on solving marine debris.

Do you know other inspirational success stories from science? Then don’t wait and share them with our community by writing a post!

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