Clothes Made from Agricultural Waste?

Scientist is looking for a way to make yarn out of farm waste.

by Dani Yokhna

Clothing Made from Agricultural Waste? (

If you were to look at the label of an article of clothing while you’re out shopping, chances are it’ll say it’s made from cotton, wool, cashmere, polyester or some combination of the above. Biomaterials science doctoral student, Philipp Stössel, is looking for a way to turn agricultural waste into viable materials, such as yarn. A sweater knitted from animal byproducts? It may be a possibility.

Stössel, along with his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, has been using gelatin to make warm yarn, GreenBiz reports. The team’s study says, “The raw material, namely, slaughterhouse waste, accumulates at about 10 million tons per year in the European Union and the global gelatin market is expected to reach 450,000 tons in 2018.”

So how does it work?

First, gelatin is taken from pig skin. It’s then heated, doped and spun until it turns into filaments, GreenBiz reports. Using this process, Stössel and his team produced 1,000 filaments. These filaments were then hand-twisted to form two-ply yarn strands. However, since gelatin dissolves in water, the team had to make the product water-resistent. This was done by cross-linking molecules with chemicals and then treating the yarn with formaldehyde and lanolin. After this treatment, the yarn was knitted into a glove. The glove was subsequently compared to a glove made of Merino wool to test its water resistance and insulation. The team found that the gelatin held up just as well, if not better, than the Merino wool, with it insulating about as well as the Merino wool. However, the strength of the gelatin glove after the water resistance tests was only about 45 percent of the strength of the Merino wool, GreenBiz reports.

The team concluded that “Protein fibers are increasingly attractive for numerous applications where, for example, high-performance mechanical properties are dispensable. The applications may range from the biomedical field, where proteins such as gelatin or collagen are desired because of the similarity to tissue constituents, to textiles.”

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