For sustainable society


Make T-shirts from excess milk

Many people may have seen the news that agricultural products are left unconsumed due to the impact of COVID-19. Milk is one of those agricultural products. Unfortunately, in early spring, milk production increased during the cattle’s birth period, so the decrease in consumption was a serious problem for dairy farmers.

But the decline in milk consumption is nothing new. In the United States, there is data that milk consumption per person has decreased by 40% between 1975 and 2017 for 42 years. It is thought that one of the reason is the increase in the popularity of vegetable milk such as soy milk, but milk supply cannot be easily reduced just because demand has decreased. If cows do not squeeze their milk for a day, they will suffer mastitis, so even if demand decreases, it is not possible to adjust the supply. The milk produced in excess is, of course, processed and used, but the surplus becomes waste.

An American company is moving to make effective use of such discarded milk. A Los Angeles-based startup, Mi Terro, started making fibers from dairy products and making T-shirts. Last year, when they raised a production fund on a crowdfunding site, they reached the target value of $3,000 in 2 hours and increased the number of fans at once.

How could milk become clothes? They use excess milk or dairy products from farms, food processing centers, and grocery stores.  The collected milk is fermented and skimmed to remove the fat in the milk. Milk is dehydrated to a powdered substance. The milk powder is then dissolved once again to purify it and remove unwanted proteins, leaving resulting fibers that are stretched and spun into yarn. After that, it is woven into a T-shirt by combining it with a fiber called Micromodal, which is derived from a plant. According to the Mi Terro website, about 5 shirts equate one glass of milk.

“Mi Terro is a green fashion brand that tries to solve the world’s problems through sustainable fashion.” said Robert Ruo, the company’s CEO and co-founder. The company, which was established in 2018, has been pursuing sustainable fashion that has a positive impact on the environment, such as selling bags made from recycled natural cork and marine plastic, and planting trees as part of sales.

Their latest work is a T-shirt made with this milk. It all started when Ruo discovered the existence of dairy waste in a YouTube video. He was surprised by the fact that 128 million tons of milk is discarded around the world every year. After that, he came up with a T-shirt made from milk as a means of simultaneously solving the waste from dairy products and the waste from fast fashion. He reached out to manufacturers and suppliers in his home country and decided to partner with a Chinese manufacturer that has a track record of eventually recycling milk into textiles.

The fabric is 3 times softer than cotton, antibacterial, deodorant, moisture absorbency, wrinkle resistance, stretchability, and has a high quality feeling. In response to the popularity of T-shirts, the company has already released underwear made from the same fabric. In the future, they plan to make products such as socks, pajamas and scarves.

T-shirts are now available from $39.5 on the company’s website. Wearing a T-shirt with the “THIS TEE IS MADE FROM MILK” logo this summer, it might be a good idea to pass on the problem of milk waste to people close to you.

Photo:Mi Terro

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