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The clothing industry is the second largest polluter of our planet. A lot of plastic is used in clothing and it ends up in our waters and oceans as plastic micro-particles. Little research has been done into sustainable alternatives for all the plastic micro-particles used in clothing. The research group Marine Biobased Specialties of Co EBBE is working on this. For example, student Yoni Mol investigates whether fish scales can be used as a sustainable raw material for the clothing industry.

Each wash cycle releases between 6,000,000 and 17,700,000 microplastic particles which end up in the sea via the sewers. These particles enter the food chain and eventually end up on our plates. This is a well-known problem, but it does not stop consumers from buying fast fashion.

Fish scales in your clothes?

What if we could reduce the amount of plastic in our clothes by using materials that biodegrade well in water, such as fish scales? In Yoni’s research, fish scales have been successfully used to make biogranulate. This biogranulate can be used as an ingredient for making sustainable textile fibres. Fish scales that are actually a waste product from aquaculture can thus be used as a sustainable raw material in the clothing industry.

Aquaculture

Within aquaculture, a lot of waste is thrown away while there are plenty of possibilities to use current waste as a sustainable raw material. Fish scales are a good example. Other examples are the shells of shellfish and the exoskeleton of shrimp species. Several residual flows are used in the composition of the biogranulate. The Netherlands, as a true water country, can take a pioneering role. Finally, aquaculture offers opportunities to strengthen our ecosystem and increase biodiversity.

Expertise and development in the Delta region

Last year, Yoni Mol, student at the HZ University of Applied Sciences, together with Dorien Derksen, lecturer Marine Biobased Specialties, investigated how fish scales can be processed into biogranulate and what the material properties of this raw material are. As an example, Yoni has used this biogranulate as a raw material in the production of sustainable sequins, a fashion item popular with young people in clothing, but unfortunately still made of non-degradable plastic.

For the realisation of this project, the researchers used knowledge and skills present in the Delta region, such as an SME with knowledge of processing fish, but also the engineering department of the HZ and the expertise of processing and testing biopolymer fibres present at the BAC and KLAC of the Centre of Expertise Biobased Economy. Yoni is not finished with this subject for the time being and together with Dorien, they are going to further develop this product into a market worthy alternative for plastic additives in clothing accessories. A short survey shows that consumers are certainly open to this story and to raising awareness about the use of synthetic ingredients in clothing.

This research was carried out within the framework of the Pure Nature 100% bio-based project, Interreg Flanders – Netherlands.