Scientists have developed a new leather-like, biodegradable material using tea byproducts to make clothing, shoes or handbags, an advance that could help cut down the waste generated by the fashion industry.
Researchers at Iowa State University developed a gel-like film consisting of cellulose fibres -a byproduct of kombucha tea -that feeds off a mixture of vinegar and sugar.
The film is grown by using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY).
According to Young-A Lee, an associate professor at Iowa State University , the properties of this SCOBY film are similar to leather once it is harvested and dried, and can be used to make clothing, shoes or handbags.
The material has been tested for other applications, such as cosmetics, foods and biomedical tissue for wound dressing, but it is relatively new to the apparel industry. The fact that the fibre is 100% biodegradable is a significant benefit for the fashion industry, which by its very nature generates a lot of waste, Lee said.