A team of Australian students from RMIT University developed Enzer, a water filtration and treatment system for microplastics that can be retrofitted to washing machines. They were awarded the ORTA Prize for Bio-Inspired Textile Processes at MoMA in New York City ( June 21, 2019). ORTA is a premiere denim manufacturer.
The Biodesign Challenge program partners university and high school students with artists, designers, and biologists to reimagine biotechnology. The students of RMIT University tackled the issue of microplastics that are released in the washing cycle by polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fibers.
Microplastics are a growing global problem: according to a 2017 International Union for Conservation of Nature report, it’s estimated about 35% of the microplastics that enter the ocean, come via synthetic textiles. About 60% of clothing today contains polyester, due to its cost-effectiveness and high performance for today’s athleisure lifestyle.
Dr. Sedef Uncu Aki, head of ORTA’s Denim Sales & Marketing, PD, R&D and Sustainability stated “We found the Enzer filter system very promising for mitigating the runoff of microplastics from washing machines that pollute waterways, simply by fitting a filter onto the machine’s water hose. The filter has an enzyme that breaks down the microfibers that contain these plastics. Microplastics in synthetics are a systemic problem, and we see great potential in what these students proposed, especially for industrial application in water treatment systems,”
Other finalists tackled the environmental damage that Spandex® causes. A team from Fashion Institute of Technology’s solution was harvesting discarded oyster shells for its connective elastin tissue that could replace elastane fiber.
Awareness of issues around sustainability and ethics is becoming a key concern for many with their apparel purchases – especially for millennials, often called the ecomodern generation. Their purchasing decisions are becoming more discerning. According to the Millennial Impact Report, 87% of millennials would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.
Dr. Sedef Uncu Aki added “Rising consumption around the world is causing a landfill and waste crisis, which is challenging ORTA to reimagine denim, and turn waste and scarcity of resources into abundance.”
Source: ORTA; -Photo credit: Valery Rizzo