Designer constructs sustainable leather-like material from SCOBY waste from the kombucha drinks industry

SCOBY-compo, a new material which utilises the waste bacterial cellulose generated by kombucha drink producers, has been developed by designer Riina Õun as an environmentally-friendly alternative to PVC and PU-based vegan leather.

Making use of natural oils, waxes and organic compounds, the SCOBY-compo material is water-resistant, flexible and strong. The result is a fully commercial, market-ready product that can be created in large quantities as a viable alternative for the fashion industry.

Riina Õun said: “For ethical reasons, people often opt for non-animal derived products made of so-called ‘vegan leather’, unaware that it is just greenwashed PVC and PU-based plastic which is very problematic and harmful to the environment.

In the context of the climate emergency, the fashion industry must switch to more sustainable practices, utilise waste streams and concentrate on more organic, natural and renewable resources. It is simply not acceptable for the industry to continue generating toxic materials and waste that takes thousands of years to degrade and that we know continues to devastate the wider environment and eco-systems.

As an alternative to currently available PVC- and PU-based ‘vegan leather’, I have developed a new material which utilises the waste bacterial cellulose generated by local kombucha drink producers.”

To showcase the SCOBY-compo material, the London-based designer has crafted a collection of bags and purses that each demonstrate a different technique for production – from traditional stitching to modular assembly and liquid moulding.

Working closely with local communities, Riina Õun aims to create a fully circular, closed-loop system where the organic waste material can be harvested, processed, sold and eventually home composted at the end of its life cycle and, rather than contaminating the environment, nurture it.

Image Credit: Riina O

Riina O

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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