The Biomimicry Institute has been awarded EUR 2.5 million to lead a multi-year initiative called Design for Decomposition. By embracing true decomposition—the way leaves break down into soil to build healthy ecosystems—the initiative will demonstrate scalable new pathways for the ~92 million tonnes of fashion waste discarded annually. The initiative is an ambitious follow-up to the Institute’s The Nature of Fashion report in 2020, which identified decomposition as the missing link for the sector.
Together with Laudes Foundation, Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Metabolic Institute, The OR Foundation, and Celery Design, the Biomimicry Institute will pilot technologies that convert wasted clothes and textiles into biocompatible raw materials. The multi-year Design for Decomposition initiative will host pilots in Western Europe and Ghana, testing the most viable decomposition technologies that are commercially viable but have yet to scale.
The initiative begins with a deep-dive into biological research about the various types and circumstances of natural decomposition and then matches those approaches to the hundreds of known decomposition technologies to determine which best model nature. In the pilot phase these approaches will be tested in Accra, Ghana, which receives about 15 million used garments each week, and also in a city like Amsterdam or Berlin with more established waste management infrastructure. Simultaneously, researchers at Yale will be taking a hard look at what really decomposes and how.