Material Revolutions: Shirts Made from Shellfish, Biodegradable Rum Bottles and Reusable Fast Food Containers


Sustainable t-shirts by Allbirds are made from a new, low-carbon material that uses a mineral extract from discarded snow crab shells. Jerry Buttles / Allbirds

In the age of consumption, sustainability innovations can help shift cultural habits and protect dwindling natural resources. Improvements in source materials, product durability and end-of-life disposal procedures can create consumer products that are better for the Earth throughout their lifecycles. Three recent advancements hope to make a difference.

1. Allbirds Shirts Made From Shellfish

Sustainable sneaker start-up Allbirds is known for its thoughtfulness for consumers and the environment. The four-year-old shoe company has become hugely popular by creating comfortable shoes made from responsibly sourced materials like tencel and wool, reported Fast Company.

Recently, Allbirds launched its debut apparel line with garments for men and women made with eco-friendly materials that have a low carbon footprint, the report said.

Introduced along with the line is a new t-shirt material called “TrinoXO,” which is made from wool and discarded snow crab shells from Canada’s seafood industry, reported CNBC and CNN. The shells are the “number two discarded resource on earth,” Allbirds claims, reported Men’s Health.

“Discarded material is the holy grail when it comes to sustainable fibers,” Jad Finck, Allbirds head of innovation and sustainability, told Fast Company. “It’s far better for the environment than getting raw materials from scratch.”

The shells have antimicrobial properties that keep clothes fresh even after hours of wear, without the need to add “extractive” materials like zinc or silver, Men’s Health reported. This allows for longer periods of wear between washes, reducing clothes’ environmental footprint.

“We knew we wanted to be a real brand, and had this vision that we’d be an innovation company first, and a product company second,” co-founder Joey Zwillinger told Vogue. “And our products would solve problems for people in a natural way, and show the world that you don’t have to compromise on the planet for amazing products.”

2. Bacardi Biodegradable Rum Bottles

By 2023, Bacardi rum will be sold in 100% biodegradable bottles, Business Wire reported.

The alcohol giant is collaborating with Danimer Scientific, a leading developer of biodegradable products, to create the new bottles using the natural oils of plant seeds such as palm, canola and soy, the report said.

According to Yahoo Finance UK, the new bottle will biodegrade in a wide range of environments, including compost, soil, freshwater and seawater. After 18 months, the bottle will disappear completely without leaving microplastics.

“Nodax PHA is one of the most promising eco-friendly materials in the world today because it delivers the biodegradability that consumers demand without losing the quality feel they receive from traditional plastic,” said Danimer Scientific chief marketing & sustainability officer Scott Tuten, reported Thrillist. “The material provides the best of both worlds, and we look forward to working with Bacardí and incorporating PHA into their iconic packaging.”

Bacardi is also creating a sustainably sourced paper bottle, Yahoo reported.

The manufacturing of both new bottle types will save energy over petroleum-based plastic ones. Bacardi plans to share the technology with competitors to help in the global fight against plastic pollution, and aims to be 100% plastic-free by 2030, reported Thrillist.

3. Burger King Reusable Fast Food Containers

Fast food giant Burger King plans to launch reusable Whopper boxes and soda cups by next year. Partnering with TerraCycle’s zero-waste packaging division Loop, Burger King will nudge customers to return the specialized packaging for hygienic washing and reuse, similar to how milk bottles used to be returned, reported MarketWatch.

“During COVID, we have seen the environmental impact of increased takeaway ordering, which makes this initiative by Burger King all the more important,” said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle and Loop CEO, according to MarketWatch.

Customers who don’t feel comfortable can opt-out of the service, ABC News reported. Those who are willing to try will be charged a small deposit upon purchase, and when the packaging is returned, they will receive a refund, reported CNN.

Burger King and TerraCycle are aiming for a container that can be used at least 100 times, reported Fast Company.

“The benefit is, you’re able to serve your guests without having to create that single-use item in the first place,” Matt Banton, global head of innovation and sustainability at Burger King, told Fast Company. “This product is durable enough to go through the system multiple times, so it’s ultimately reducing our environmental impact, and minimizing the amount of single-use packaging that we have to produce as well.”

Burger King has also committed to sourcing 100% of its customer packaging from renewable, recycled or certified outlets, and recycling all customer packaging at its restaurants in the United States and Canada by 2025, reported CNN.

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