Around 116 million tons of dairy products are lost or discarded globally each year, according to 2018 study by Professor Peter Alexander, a member of the Global Academy of Agriculture of Food Security of the University of Edinburgh. 55 million tons of these are lost, from the farm level during production due to spoilage and waste to the distribution of these to local stores and foreign markets.
In line with this, Mi Terro, a company based in Los Angeles, USA, has sought to work around milk waste and transform it to other materials like t-shirts, and other packaging materials. The company sources spoiled milk by partnering with the leading dairy companies in the world, and once acquired, the milk is then fermented through a special process which drains all its fat and water content.
Once fermented, the casein protein is then extracted and purified from the fermenting bacteria, which is then used as the base for their t-shirt products. The casein proteins are then spun into fibers to form a thread, and is mixed with MicroModal, a natural fiber made from beechwood.
The company claims the process on producing the casein-based fibers uses around 60% less water than its cotton counterpart. Cotton is a water-intensive crop, requiring 2,400 liters of water just to produce 1kg of cotton fiber. This is a big development, considering that according to a report in 2015 by the World Bank, 79 billion cubic meters of water were consumed by the fashion industry in that same year alone.
By providing an alternative source for clothing material, land otherwise used for growing cotton may be transformed to grow food crops or other productive uses. While efforts continue to be developed in making cotton production more efficient and sustainable, biotechnological innovations such as the production of clothing material from other waste materials like spoiled milk should be supported and developed even further.
**Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines**