Food Loss/Waste FoodTech

Mi Terro, a Los Angeles-based startup, that turns old milk into fabrics seek China partners

Mi Terro, a Los Angeles-based startup, that upcycles waste produced in the dairy industry by creating sustainable fabrics, is in talks with leading dairy companies in China over strategic partnerships. It is estimated that 128 million tons of dairy products are dumped every year globally. Mi Terro intends to launch in China on June 18 and Japan in the next two months.

Mi Terro’s Robert Luo said he is discussing investment with dominant firms in the Chinese dairy market, where the startup sources its raw materials. Since the launch in June 2019 of its t-shirts made using fabric produced from excess milk, Mi Terro has generated more than $100,000 in revenue from online sales to customers in more than 40 countries.

ROBERT LUO, Founder & CEO, Mi Terro

Mi Terro collects milk from its dairy farm partner, skims it to remove fats before dewatering it to become powdered milk. It is then dissolved and purified to remove and substances that are not casein – the proteins that make up a large proportion of milk. Once the casein is isolated, it is immersed in an alkali solution and passed through a spinneret to solidify the proteins into fibers. After this, it is removed from the alkali solution and the fibers are stretched, spun into yarn and ready to be used in the manufacturing of clothing.

The entire milk-to-shirt process apparently takes two months, with one glass of milk corresponding to five shirts. This approach touches two fundamental global sustainability goals – reducing waste and minimizing the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry. The wasteful practices of the food system, accounts for 25-30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions according to a report from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Food and agricultural waste is proving to provide excellent materials for making low impact fabrics and garments. Small and medium sized companies make up roughly half of the fashion industry, and are well-placed to innovate in sustainability. Apart from Milk, companies are also making textiles from pineapple, orange, banana and coconut. A few examples of making textiles from Pineapple and Orange are:

  1. Pineapple fibre: Pineapple leaves contain one of the finest cellulose fibres in existence. A company, Ananas Anam, which is headquartered in London, developed Piñatex®, a fibre from the leaves of the pineapple plant. It was initially a project as part of the Royal College of Art in London’s incubator programme called InnovationRCA and took 7 years of R&D to develop. There are now many brands opting for Pinatex instead of leather, including global fashion giant Hugo Boss, who is using the material to make sneakers.
  2. Orange fibre: In Italy alone, every year, more than 700.000 tons of citrus waste is produced and, until Orange Fiber, no one has developed a viable alternative for its disposal. Using their patented process, Orange Fiber extracts the citrus cellulose from the “pastazzo” to create a polymer which is then spun into yarn and used to create “refined, ethereal and high-quality fabrics ideally suited to luxury and premium fashion brands.”

Mi Terro is preparing to expand its food waste innovation beyond fashion. It is working on new technology that will help dairy makers recycle whey waste into biodegradable food packaging film and also looking to license its technologies in the near future.

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