Recycling Old Milk Into New Products

old milk doesn't have to be dumped

old milk doesn't have to be dumped

We didn’t plan for a series on the connection between fashion and food waste this week, but the stories we’re coming across definitely have that in common. If you’re intrigued by the idea of a handbag made from “fruit leather,” then you’ll probably also be interested in fashion, interior fabrics, and other products coated in old milk.

OK, not exactly, but a lot of milk gets thrown away: in North America alone,Β 2.2 million tons can’t be sold each year, and, thus, requires disposal. A team of engineers and scientists in Germany (which tosses out 2 million tons of milk annually) came up with a way to put that waste to use. QMilk is the name of their company, as well as their product: a biopolymer derived from the protein casein which has a wide range of industrial applications.

What can you do with it?

  • Add it to traditional fibers for clothing. Not only does a shot of 20% QMilk add a bit of silkiness, but it also enhances qualities such as moisture absorption and color fastness. It provides additional antimicrobial properties and UV protection.
  • Add it to other fabrics: The qualities above aren’t just good for your clothes, but also the fabrics on furniture and car interiors.
  • Use it for make-up: The company has created its own line of cosmetics. The idea is that the biopolymers can replace synthetic chemicals found in most make-ups.

I suppose this might create some issues for vegans (who’d probably want to know if clothes or other products contained this casein-based additive), but it strikes me as preferable alternative to dumping all of that milk down the drain. And while this doesn’t address consumer waste of milk (which, I’m sure, is significant), I wouldn’t be surprised there’s more waste before the product gets to consumers’ refrigerators.

Know more about this product, or others like it? Tell us about them in the comments…

Photo credit: Shutterstock

  1. allpurposeguru

    I wrote about this four years ago. The process was developed by a team led by Anke Domaske, who is both a microbiologist and fashion designer! Technically, Qmilk (QMilch in German) isn’t made from old milk. Casein is an inedible byproduct of milk production. Looking at the company’s website four years later, it’s astounding how the product line has grown. http://sustainingourworld.com/2011/11/24/qmilch-an-organic-synthetic-fabric-from-milk/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *