A government-sponsored research institute and the City University of Hong Kong have teamed up for a joint project on an innovative unique solution to the problem of large amount food of thrown away during the course of its daily production, distribution and consumption. This includes not only leftovers but, for example, vegetables that are not within the standard range of size or shape.
Hong Kong does not have sufficient landfills, and the city has been slow in making efforts to separate the 9,000 tons of garbage collected every day. Food waste is believed to account for a third of that. The city needs an alternative solution for the mountains of waste food that pile up every day.
Edwin Keh, chief executive of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, as he holds a piece of textile with a silky smooth texture said that it is made from kitchen garbage.
According to Keh, food waste is a global issue and he believes this innovative material could help solve the problem.
The mechanism is quite simple. Using enzymes, food waste containing sugar is converted into polylactic acid, a type of bioplastic. The material is then melted into the form of a filament. The process can recycle 10 tons of food waste into one ton of fabric, and a patent is pending.
The method itself is not extraordinary, including the process of fermentation, and is a low-cost solution that does not require a large amount of resources, such as electricity and water. The project has received financial support from a European apparel manufacturer. Work is progressing towards commercialization, which the team hopes can be done in three to five years.
But the hurdles remain, is the thread snaps easily, making it too delicate to be used for making clothes. One workaround is to blend the fiber with different materials to improve the quality.
Keh said that his team wants to create a recycling technology that has commercial uses.
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