In August 2019, clothing tech company Vollebak released a 100% biodegradable T-shirt made entirely from plants and algae.

The eco-friendly Plant and Algae T-shirt is made from algae grown in bioreactors, and pulped eucalyptus and beech taken from sustainably managed forests. “It’s not only made from nature, but once you’ve finished with it you can bury it back in the earth and it will biodegrade in 12 weeks,” said Vollebak.

“Sustainability is simply a lot easier to understand when it involves feeding your old clothes to worms, as you’re unlikely to forget the day you buried your T-shirt in the garden.”

The T-shirt is decorated with a large green rectangle printed with ink made from algae, which Vollebak collected by passing water from a bioreactor through a filter. This process is said to separate the algae, leaving a paste that is then dried in the sun to create a fine powder, which can be mixed with a water-based binder to make algae ink. The T-shirt is made from wood pulp harvested from sustainable forestry plantations, which are certified by both the Forestry Sustainability Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Steve Tidbull, co-founder of Vollebak, said: “The only thing different about this T-shirt is that it grew in soil and water, and that’s where it’s designed to end up too. All you need to do is remember to compost it at the end of its life. Here it will biodegrade with them, turn into soil, and help new plants to grow.

The T-shirt is decorated with green ink made from algae

“This was always the original aim when we started building it – to show what a sustainable closed loop system in clothing could look like. We wanted to make a piece of clothing entirely out of natural materials that could simply return to nature and leave no trace of its existence once it reached the end of its lifespan.”