It’s Monday morning. The milk is five days past its “best by” date. I do not gamble this early into the day or week. As a result, my morning tea is a little bit lackluster today.
The carton is almost half-full (or half-empty?) and I can’t help but kick myself mentally for not drinking it last week. As we enter National Dairy Month, our awareness to incorporate more milk into our diets will reach an annual high. We will see an increase in recipes, tips, and tricks to incorporate milk in our diets. Unfortunately, no matter how diligent we are, milk will continue to spoil. According to the Wall Street Journal, American farmers disposed of more than 43 MILLION gallons of milk in the first half of 2016, before it even left the farm. These figures do not include my spoiled milk from yesterday morning. Clearly we should not be wasting such a valuable resource, so what are we to do? Luckily, Anke Domaske has discovered another way of using milk. By processing spoiled milk in a €200 laboratory she created in her own kitchen, she was able to create antibacterial, hypoallergenic fabrics for clothes that is eco-friendly and sustainable.
Milking it for all it’s worth
The idea came to Domaske when her father was going through treatment for cancer and could only wear hypoallergenic clothing. However, turning milk into an alternative fabric is not new. It was originally developed in the 1930’s, but required huge amounts of power and chemicals to process the material. Now, Domaske has refined the process to make it completely chemical-free. In doing so, she has created a fabric that is not only hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and bio-degradable, but it even boasts superior moisture absorption and climate control properties.
Milk is Sustainable and Eco-Friendly
When heating milk under 100C, it retains most of its proteins – including amino acids – that allow its natural and organic properties to stay intact. This allows the process of production to be sustainable and energy-efficient. Domaske’s company, Qmilch (Q stands for quality and “milch” is German for “milk”) only uses milk that has gone bad and recycles it. In addition, she uses natural ingredients, such as beeswax, to spin it into a thread that can be used for clothing. Because of its all-natural and organic ingredients, the finished product has a similar feel to silk. Yarn and felt are often spun with a mixture of wool and other synthetic and unsustainable materials, but can be mixed with milk fibres to improve texture and keep the materials 100% natural.
When Domaske initially started out, she had ambitions of creating a fabric that was chemical-free and efficient in its production. Aside from resources put into raising cattle, Qmilch fibre only requires 2 litres of water to make. A dress would thus require 3 kilograms of fibre totaling 6 litres of water to produce an article of clothing. In comparison, 1 kilogram of cotton can produce one t-shirt or pair of jeans but requires a staggering 20 000 litres of water to create. Not to mention how much of that water needed to produce cotton has been laced and treated with chemicals and then dumped back into our water systems and/or environment.
Milk as an Alternative Fabric
Outside of clothing, Qmilch has recently developed a skincare line, scheduled to launch in July 2017. Boasting the same hypoallergenic and all-natural ingredients, Qmilch aims to promote a sustainable skin-care line intentionally environmentally conscious and designed for those prone to sensitive skin. Domaske has no intentions of stopping here.
Because of her product’s biodegradability and anti-bacterial properties, milk fibre can be used as a replacement for plastic in the food industry to help reduce waste. Domaske also hopes to promote the fibres natural flame-retardant abilities and hopes to find applications in the furniture and automotive industries. I think it is clear that an exciting future awaits Qmilch, but in the meantime Domaske is trying to take things one step at a time by stabilizing her company first. Her endless possibilities for Qmilch’s applications are not only good for both manufacturer and consumer, but are also sustainable for the environment (she even talks about the bio polymers uses as an organic toothpaste!). Current ready-to-use products made from milk fibres include a day time luxury bag and sustainable toilet paper.
Domaske is based in Germany where a whopping 1.9 million tonnes of milk goes to waste. Here in Canada, we are faced with an oversupply of milk as more Canadians are reducing dairy in their diets and switching to alternative milks (almond, soy, etc.). In 2016, Canadian dairy farmers were faced with a dilemma of using excess milk as animal feed or even dumping it into lagoons because domestic demands were simply not high enough. Restructuring Canada’s dairy industry has been in the talks for years, but no solution is in sight. My advice? When life gives you milk, make clothing.