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Is Vegan Silk Biodegradable and Compostable?

Worn-out clothes, in most cases, make it to landfills. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. What can we do to prevent or at least reduce this extent of waste that takes decades to biodegrade? 

Simple - opt for clothes made using biodegradable fibres. An additional perk of choosing biodegradable fabrics - you can compost them. Does peace silk make the cut? 

Key Takeaways: How does biodegradation work?

Making clothes with the potential to biodegrade at the end of their lives is a sustainably proactive response to the rising level of material waste overflowing in landfills. The process of biodegradation involves fabric fibres being broken down into simpler substances. This occurs with a bit of help from light, air, water, and microorganisms to find their way back into the earth. Ideally, this process must occur over a relatively short period of time without leaving any harmful toxins behind. 

Can all our clothes biodegrade?

Unfortunately, not all fibres can biodegrade. Synthetic or petroleum-based fibres like polyester, nylon, acrylic, or spandex come from a carbon-based chemical source and are therefore considered to be non-biodegradable. These fibres persist in the environment for thousands of years because microorganisms lack the enzymes necessary to break the fibre down. 

However, animal and plant-based fabrics degrade into simple particles quickly but not if they are made from fibre-blends. Blends can consist of both synthetic and natural fibres, like wool and acrylic. These fibre-blends can hinder the decomposition process. We should also note that a garment consists of components like zippers, facings (like adhesive fusing), threads and buttons that break down at varying speeds. Therefore, it is essential to consider all factors at the outset, even minute details like garment trims. 

Is vegan silk clothing biodegradable and compostable?

The difference between regular silk and vegan silk is that the vegan counterpart does not kill any silkworms, but the fabric’s biodegradability factor is the same as conventional silk. Since silk is obtained from silkworms, which essentially makes the fabric animal (insect)-derived — it is entirely biodegradable. However research claims that the rate of degradation is slow and can take up to four years to biodegrade depending on enzymatic conditions. Other factors include the use of natural and non-toxic dyes that won’t leave behind any toxins. As long as vegan silk meets the aforementioned factors, it can be placed in a compost to speed up the decomposing process. 

That being said, from an environmental and ethical viewpoint, vegan silk still fares a lot better than conventional silk when it comes to its extraction methods. To produce a meager 1 kilogram worth of regular silk, a massive 6,600 silkworms get killed — but vegan silk does not kill any silkworms in the process. Vegan sericulture encourages the silkworm’s natural process of metamorphosis.

Now that you know better be sure to make ethical choices when making your next silk purchase. Check out our sustainable lineup of vegan silk clothing for women.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-05-22

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