Source: Unsplash | Brian Yurasits

MIT Researchers Turn Plastic Bags Into Fabric That Rivals Cotton

Jane Smith - Author

Mar. 15 2021, Published 3:18 p.m. ET

The danger of too much plastic polluting the world has sparked concern for the environment, and a few innovative thinkers have come up with a way to tackle the problem by turning plastic bags into fabrics, which can in turn be used to make clothing of all kinds.

Polythene is the thin, lightweight plastic used to make the plastic bags that ends up polluting the sides of streets, parking lots, oceans and rivers. It poses a dangerous threat the the environment and wildlife.

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The Bags Harm Wildlife

The bags have been found around the necks of turtles and in the bellies of some dolphins. Animals accidentally swallow the bags because they may look like a jellyfish or something else to eat, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Other animals become entangled in them, a situation that generally results in death unless humans rescue the animals.

“A lot of folks who live inland truly don’t recognize that their one plastic bag, their one plastic water bottle can move out into our waterways,” Melanie Grillone of the environmental advocacy organization Oceana, told the Times.

Engineers Developed A Fabric That Rivaled Cotton

Bags, as well as other garbage, end up in the ocean because of wind and water runoff areas.

Many people realize the need for some kind of solution to the crisis. Enter the engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who developed a sustainable fabric that was cool and lightweight, but not able to wick away moisture. That is, until recently. Not only that, the fabric researchers created absorbed and evaporated water more quickly than cotton, nylon, and polyester.

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The Fabric Doesn't Get Dirty

Another advantage regarding the fabric is that it does not get as dirty as other fabrics do because other particles have a difficult time bonding to them.

“It doesn’t get dirty because nothing sticks to it,” Svetlana Boriskina, an MIT scientist said. “You could wash polyethyelene on the cold cycle for 10 minutes, versus washing cotton on the hot cycle for an hour.”

Shirley Meng, a scientist at the University of California at San Diego, said that the work of MIT’s engineers was “quite convincing.”

The Substance Is Promising

This is good news, but it make take some time for the fabric to make it to the shelves of department stores. That being said, the development offers hope for a distressing problem that does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

MIT is investigating how to turn polyethylene fabrics into everyday apparel and even attire for the military. Researchers are not just setting their sights on the earth either, as the product could even be used for future spacesuits, as it offers protection from dangerous radiation in space.


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