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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Are you ready to wear milk?

Kirjoittanut: Irene Lai - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.



Legend has it that Cleopatra used to bathe in donkey milk to improve the appearance of her skin by reducing wrinkles. Behind all the waste of milk that we can possibly imagine, apparently Cleopatra was not that wrong noticing that milk makes the skin smoother and brighter. She was not the only one using this product; it was common around the ancient world. People did not even know why, and it was not only useful, but also luxurious, thing that made this product only more attractive, of course. But what about nowadays? Modern cosmetics know now that all these theories were not only just a figment of people’s imagination, because milk do contain elements that can help hydrate and smooth the skin. But with such a precious product, aren’t we missing something else? Can’t we do more to take advantage of this rich composition? Tons and tons of milk are wasted annually, and since milk is a food that can pollute the environment, it needs proper disposal and specific collecting centers. It is understandable so that this waste of resources is not only a huge loss but also quite expensive.  

These were for sure the very first thoughts that Mi terro, an award-winning social impact biotechnology company, had when they decided to start seeing treasures where everybody saw trash. In their case, food waste can be worn in the form of a nice and soft t-shirt that had been called “The Limitless Milk Shirt” or the world’s first shirt made from upcycled milk. From the original idea, other examples from different companies, like the made in Italy Duedilatte and again the “Biancamore” followed. 

But more than on a singular company, this essay will focus more on the innovation that has identified the production process to exploit milk not suitable for consumption and therefore destined for waste.  




A white example of circular economy 


Talking about innovation, milk yarn has a long story behind it. In fact, the first synthetic fiber derived from the casein protein in milk was commercialized between 1937 and the end of World War II. Antonio Ferretti, an Italian chemist, created an effective process to create regenerated protein fibers made of milk around the beginning of the 1930s. Unfortunately, Lanital (that is how Antonio Ferretti called his creation) was not particularly successful at that time because, as they were working to improve it, all those petroleum-derived yarns that started appearing after the way were incredibly resistant and cheap. Because of that, Lanital was eliminated from the market and little by little forgot, only to come back recently, when everybody began to understand the impact and the problems that petroleum-derived yarns create. 

This led us again to these years Mi Terro and all those companies that have been mentioned. 

“We believe we can eliminate food waste and plastic by working closely with the agricultural industry supply chain to reduce the impact of global warming.” (Mi Terro, 2022) 

Milk and dairy products are perfect for this cause because they are one of those products that have a very short shelf life. A large quantity of expired material can no longer be put back on the market, because if milk is damaged in any way, it may contain substances that could cause harm to humans. Milk is then automatically discarded and cannot be consumed. But how do we get useful yarn from expired milk? Once powdered, the milk that dairy producers decide not to put on the market is treated to remove all impurities. Through bioengineering techniques, the principal protein in the milk, casein, has been extracted, separated from the whey, and subsequently transformed from food protein to textile protein. From here the fiber can be created and, therefore, the thread with which to create the fabric. 

This is how for example Mi Terro, after one year of research, development, and testing, presented its milk shirt and launched it on Kickstarter. To the question “What makes the Limitless Shirt so innovative?” Mi Terro replied that “The Limitless Milk Shirt is odor free, anti-bacterial, unbelievably soft, moisture wicking, wrinkle resistant, temperature regulating, and stretches in every direction to move with your body. It is truly the one shirt you can wear day in and day out, no matter the weather, occasion, or location.” (Mi Terro, Kickstarter). Of course, we all know that it is not only that. The Milk Shirts, whichever company they are from, are in fact a perfect example of a circular economy where nothing is destroyed, everything is regenerated. Materials are used effectively and sustainably in this kind of economy, where they may be repaired, recycled, and safely used repeatedly. In this case milk that otherwise would have been wasted because not suitable anymore for sales purposes finds a new life becoming yarn and then t-shirts. Dairies’ leftover food is fermented and then skimmed. The casein, which is dissolved in an alkaline solution, is still extracted after it has reached the powder state. This is once again the extraordinary process used to produce the fibers used to make the yarn that will be used to make t-shirts. 

Duedilatte also, as mentioned before, an Italian company founded in 2013, started making innovative yarns and fabrics using the protein amino acids derived from casein extracted from milk. Milk Yarn is naturally antibacterial, thermoregulatory and gives the fabric characteristics of extreme softness and silkiness which are a real pampering for the skin. Furthermore, through their research and a well-equipped development team, time and resources have been making progresses in the technological field for the sustainable textile sector, creating new innovative textile fibers starting from agri-food surpluses such as coffee and rice yarns. The Caffè Duedilatte fiber derives from the processing of carbonated coffee on a polyester basis. Coffee has always been considered an excellent product thanks to its energizing and antioxidant properties, so it is easy to understand that yarn from such an excellent product has extraordinary properties: odor control which helps to reduce washing, and thermal insulation that retains body heat so that it does not dissipate towards the outside. 






Luckily, filling our bathtub with drinkable milk is not anymore necessary to take advantage of the softness that the milk can give to our skin. “Approximately a liter and a half of dairy surplus”, the founder of Duedilatte explaines that this is the amount of milk that is necessary to create a t-shirt. “Silk-like texture, six times softer than cotton”, this what the Limitless Milk Shirts claim in its kickstarter webpage. Not just an extraordinary saving of resources, but also a discovery (or better a rediscovery) of an amazing product then. 

Thinking that something like thirty million tons of milk is wasted annually lets us get the importance of a product like this. Plus, there are specific collecting centers because milk is a food that needs proper disposal, and it is quite expensive to get rid of it. Why not use it then? Furthermore, considering the properties that milk can give to clothes. Encouraging progress has been made with rice and coffee too and made it look like that in the next future milk will not be the only one among many raw materials that can be used to make something new in a perfect circular economy. 






Biancamore webpage, https://www.biancamore.it/it/mobile/product/39-t-shirt-in-fibra-di-latte. Read on 06.11.2022 

Duedilatte, https://antonellabellina.wixsite.com/duedilatte Read on 17.11.2022 

Lanital, The wool made from milk, youtube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IM-hqhABezs&ab_channel=silvan500 Watched 20.11.2022 

Limitless Milk Shirt, kickstarter, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/miterro/limitless-milk-shirt-the-first-shirt-made-from-milk. Read on 10.11.2022 

Masella, C. 2018, Il latte che si indossa è italiano e parla toscano. https://www.riciblog.it/il-latte-che-si-indossa-e-italiano-e-parla-toscano/. Read on 10.11.2022 

Mi Terro webpage, https://www.miterro.com/. Read on 10.11.2022 

Prodigus, Magliette di Latte, https://prodigus.it/articoli/food-news/magliette-di-latte. Read on 05.11.2022 





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