Fashion and Environment: Is Real Fur Biodegradable?


We are here in one of the
biodegradation lab of OWS in Ghent. In this lab particularly we mainly do anaerobic
tests which mimic the conditions in landfills. We are testing the biodegradation of natural
fur and fake fur, which is a conventional plastic. It allows us to see what is their impact on
the environment. We set up the test to mimic
and accelerate the conditions in an active landfill. We put the samples into a reactor
containing the bacteria. Then the reactors are closed off and put into
a nice warm place where the bacteria can do their job. Biodegradation is the breakdown of a material
by organisms. These organisms use that material for energy
and for growth. We monitor the reactors and the biogas that
is produced because this is how we measure the biodegradation. The test that we did of 4 weeks would compare
to a biodegradation on a landfill that would take between 4 and 40 years. As we expected, the bacteria were able to
consume the real fur and to produce biogas from it. There is biodegradation from the natural fur. On the contrary, the bacteria were not able
to consume the fake fur. We didn’t measure any biogas production. In practice, this means that when fake fur
reaches a landfill, it would just sit there – nothing will happen. On the opposite, when real fur reaches a landfill,
it will disintegrate and eventually biodegrade.

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