Crafting Organic Waste For Fashion Exploring how waste Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) generated from the kombucha drink industry can be re-processed into a new, more sustainable, vegan, leather-like material.

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. It is called SCOBY-compo. Through rigorous and meticulous experimentation and the use of natural oils, waxes and organic compounds, the material I have developed is water-resistant, flexible and strong. I have also enhanced the smell by using essential oils to develop a pleasant scent of its own. The result is a fully commercial, market ready product that I can create in large quantities as a viable alternative for the fashion industry.

To evidence the viability of my material, I have 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, my aim is 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.