You know the saying there’s no use crying over spilled milk? Well for LA-based startup Mi Terro, spilled milk truly is a new opportunity. The company is using biotechnology to turn a portion of the 128 million tons of milk wasted every year into sustainable fibers for biodegradable T-shirts.
If you’re wondering how on earth they make shirts out of milk, we were too. It turns out the process involves re-engineering milk proteins to create a fabric that uses 60 percent less water than an organic cotton shirt. The method was invented by cofounders Robert Luo and Daniel Zhuang after Luo witnessed first hand how much milk was being wasted at his uncle’s dairy farm in China.
The company sources dairy products from farms, food processing centers, and grocery stores before using “Protein Activation” and “Self-Assembly Purification” technology to extract and purify casein protein molecules from the spoiled milk bacteria. Lastly, they spin the clean casein protein into eco-friendly fibers.
So how does it compare to cotton? According to Mi Terro, their milk shirts are three times softer than cotton, anti-microbial, odor-free, anti-wrinkle, and temperature-regulating. Additionally, the company will plant 15 trees for each purchase.
Moving forward, Mi Terro hopes to use their innovative technology to create more eco-friendly products and offer a sustainable substitute for plastic. Agricultural waste is a huge issue around the globe and a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Creating viable products with food waste helps promote a circular economy. The pandemic has exposed huge gaps in our food chains and our inability to adapt to changing market demands. Products like milk shirts could help fill in waste reduction where producers are unable to redirect supplies.