Spinning old milk into eco-friendly clothes

Date:11 October 2019 Author: Lucinda Dordley Tags:,

An Italian fashion designer is using spoilt milk to weave t-shirts and other clothing. Antonella Bellina was inspired five years ago when she opened her refridgerator and found that the milk she had intended to use for her coffee had expired.

“I thought, ‘why do I have to throw this in the trash? I can use this’,” the 39-year-old said in an interview with The Guardian.

According to Coldiretti, Italy’s agricultural association, the country wastes an estimated 30-million tonnes of dairy each year.

Bellina’s company is called Duedialatte, and collects the expired product from local farms. It takes less than half a gallon of milk to make a t-shirt. The final product is soft, and does not smell of sour milk.

The process begins with the milk heated to exactly 50 degrees celcius. Citric acid is added to separate the whey from the protein. By this stage, it looks and smells just like old, lumpy milk you might find at the back of the fridge.

Casein protein is then strained, dried and ground into a fine powder. The next step is a trade secret, but Bellina reveals that 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 to make clothing.


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According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global waste-water and 10% of global carbon emissions — more than that of international flights and maritime shipping combined. The industry is now considered one of the worst polluters on the planet and according to experts, there’s an urgent need to develop eco-friendly alternatives.

“The first thing people do is smell it,” Bellina said.

Milk fiber isn’t a new idea. It was invented in the 1930s as a replacement for wool in a resource-starved Italy. Early prototypes were chemical-heavy, with factories using substances like formaldehyde to add strength to the fabric. According to Bellina, technological advancements have allowed her to revolutionise this process.

“Our fabric is now 100 percent chemical-free,” she added. “Even our dyes are from natural sources like blueberries and red onion.”

At the moment, Duedilatte’s range is only available in Italy but the company hopes to enter the global market later this year.

Picture: Pixabay

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