Scientists from Iowa State University, US, have developed a new leather-like biodegradable material by using tea byproducts. The biodegradable leather could be used to make clothing, shoes and handbags. This could help cut down waste generated in the fashion industry.
The material is made from a byproduct of kombuch tea, which upon harvesting and drying is similar to leather. This leather has a gel-like film consisting of cellulose fibres. The film is grown by using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). According to Young-A Lee, associate professor of apparel, merchandising and design at Iowa State University, the properties of SCOBY film are similar to leather after it is harvested and dried.
SCOBY is new in the apparel industry but it has already been tested in other applications such as cosmetic, foods and biomedical tissue for wound dressing. The product being biodegradable is beneficial to the fashion industry. “Fashion, to most people, is an ephemeral expression of culture, art, and technology manifesting itself in form. Fashion companies keep producing new materials and clothing, from season to season, year to year, to fulfil consumers' desire and needs. Think about where these items eventually go. They will take tremendous underground spaces of the Earth like other trash,” Lee said.