Your Next Peacoat Could Be Made Of Slaughterhouse Waste

Photographed by Alexandra R. Gavillet.
The question has been asked countless times: Who was the first person to look at a cow and think, I want to drink what comes out of that thing? Today, we present you with a more probing, yet actually answerable, question: Who walks into a slaughterhouse and thinks, I could make a mean pair of gloves out of something in here? That would be entrepreneur Philipp R. Stössel and his fellow researchers, who are turning gelatin into winter wear.

For the unfamiliar, gelatin consists mainly of collagen, which is usually cast aside as a byproduct in the skin, tendons, and bones of an animal after slaughter. Once the collagen is put in an acid bath and boiled, the runoff that results is gelatin. Given the simplicity of this process, Stössel and his team were inspired to use gelatin in their research on renewable and sustainable fibers. To begin, they sought out the most bountiful source of gelatin imaginable — an active slaughterhouse — and set forth.

They also worked in collaboration with the Advanced Fibers Laboratory at Empa St. Gallen, which had developed a technique that, for lack of a better term, spins that gelatin into yarn. Similar to the conversion of collagen into gelatin, this process begins with heat. Once melted, the gelatin becomes elastic enough to be formed into a threadlike structure, and, thus, a test pair of gloves were knitted.

Before you ask, no, these gloves were not intended to be part of a Buffalo Bill Halloween costume. They were actually made to compare to natural merino wool. The researchers found that, in terms of warmth and actual insulation, they were about equivalent to the more conventional winter coat staple. While they're still working on improving the gelatin yarn's water resistance, note that it is shinier than regular wool, if lustrous winter gear is what you're after.

Commerical funding for this specific breed of synthetic wool is still way in the future, but, in a few years, you might want to start looking at the tag on your fall coat a little more carefully.

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