The U.S. generates more than 15 million tons of textile waste each year, and all most all of it ends up in the landfill. Less than 0.1% of it gets recycled when almost 100% of textile waste is recyclable according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Vollebak developed a T-shirt that gives another go for a commercial biodegradable t-shirt.
The t-shirt is plastic-free. Vollebak made it with fibers extracted from plants, including eucalyptus, beech, and spruce. That means the t-shirt could decompose much faster than a traditional cotton t-shirt could.
Vollebak uses algae, a type of seagrass, to print the graphic on the t-shirt. The design team first needs to run algae water through a filter to create a paste and then dries the paste to produce a fine powder. That would eventually be mixed with a water-based binder to create the print.
The color would fade faster than a chemical dye. The pigment would interact with oxygen and oxidize over time.
Vollebak said once you are done with the t-shirt, you can bury it in your yard instead of sending it to a landfill. The t-shirt can decompose in three months.
However, it is hard to say if this t-shirt would be a commercial success as it comes with a $110 price tag. Vollebak is not alone in the biodegradable t-shirt market. A 100% biodegradable t-shirt by Spreadshirt comes in at $24 with a less inspiring design.
Nevertheless, Vollebak’s shirt would decompose much faster than its current competitions who mostly stay with using cotton and no dye. That being said, the t-shirt is still much cheaper than a $600 Gucci t-shirt. The question is if the consumers are willing to pay for it.