Dissolvable fashion to combat clothing landfill glut

Researchers are experimenting with dissolvable clothing - Newsreel
New research opens the way for gelatin-based clothing that can be dissolved and recycled. | Photo: Tomazl (iStock)

Fashion that can be quickly dissolved and recycled has become a reality with a new machine that produces clothing made from gelatin.

Researchers at the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder have produced “biofibres” that dissolve in hot water in less than an hour.

They hope the technology will ultimately solve the issue of so much used clothing ending up in landfill.

In 2018 alone, more than 11 million tons of textiles went to landfill in the United States.

A recent report by the Australia Institute estimated that 200,000 pieces of clothing were ending up in landfill each year in Australia. The same report said Australians bought an average of 56 pieces of clothing per year.

ATLAS Institute study lead Eldy Lázaro Vásquez said the biofibre machine was small enough to fit on a desk and cost only $560 to build.

She hoped the device would help designers around the world experiment with making their own biofibres.

“You could customize fibres with the strength and elasticity you want, the colour you want,” Ms Lázaro Vásquez said.

“With this kind of prototyping machine, anyone can make fibre. You don’t need the big machines that are only in university chemistry departments.”

Designers could tweak the chemistry of the fibres to make them more resilient or to have special characteristics – like jackets that disappear in the rain.

They could also try making fibres from other materials like chitin (a component of crab shells) or agar-agar, made from algae.

“We’re trying to think about the whole lifecycle of our textiles,” Ms Lázaro Vásquez said. “That begins with where the material is coming from. Can we get it from something that normally goes to waste?”

More details are on the University of Colorado website.