Today’s Solutions: May 23, 2022

As people are increasingly becoming reluctant to use clothes and fashion accessories made out of animal-sourced leather, more and more designers are turning their eyes towards more sustainable and ethical alternatives.

One of the latest leather alternatives on the market comes from textile designer Youyang Song, who developed a biodegradable material using fruit peels and algae. Called Peelsphere, the circular material is a versatile and waterproof textile that can be adapted for different purposes. It can be hardened to create protective cases or accessories like buttons or left soft to serve as fabric.

Song ventured to create the material after realizing that there were no biodegradable leather alternatives she could use for her design work. As such, she decided to create an alternative that could replace animal hide yet retain the material’s most attractive properties, such as versatility and strength. “As an ideal alternative to leather and synthetic leather, Peelsphere is beautiful, durable, versatile, and biodegradable,” she said.

At the beginning of the project, Song and her team started sourcing leftover bananas and orange peels from local fruit juice suppliers. They then devised a manufacturing process that involves extracting the fiber and pectin from the peel and then grinding them together into fine pieces using a bio-binder.

The mixture forms opaque sheets of leather like-material that can be dyed using natural dyes. As a final step, the designers laser-cut and 3D-print the sheets into different sizes. The resulting material is a malleable and waterproof textile that can be embroidered, woven, and knitted to create countless patterns.

According to Song, Peelsphere is 100 percent biodegradable and can easily be recycled at the end of its life by the studio or the customers themselves. “The whole process involves only biodegradable ingredients and the final product is 100 percent biodegradable without compromise in the performance,” Song said. “Through recycling, redesign, and reuse, a closed-loop circular design of the material is achieved. The material focuses on the potential of fruit waste, redefining the relationship between materials and sustainability,” she added.

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