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Redefining apparel- A new textile by using ‘kombucha’

From kombucha to leather like textile - Redefining apparel- A new textile by using ‘kombucha’



Division of Consumer Science student, Matseliso Monnapula is defying the odds and redefining the apparel industry by developing a new textile through the use of a “kombucha” by-product.

From bacterial cellulose to leather-like textiles, Matseliso’s goal is to determine the compound’s worth as a possible sustainable textile alternative for use in the apparel industry.

This particular textile is mostly suitable for accessories and can be used to make products that are typically made of leather such as bags, jackets, shoes and bucket hats.

Pure curiosity

With her brother brewing kombucha, her curiosity and fascination with how to utilise this mass of cellulose brew.

Matseliso Monnapula is a master’s student in the Division of Consumer Science at the University of the Free State (UFS).

“It was upon further research that we discovered that there actually is more to it – from within the textile industry, biomedical and tissue engineering disciplines, paper and audio speaker manufacturing, to even the food industry,” Monnapula said.

Therefore, “it was all systems go” after presenting the idea to her supervisor.

Picture: Supplied

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Evaluated for consumer use

Created in the Textile Lab and later evaluated for consumer use in the Sensory Lab of UFS, the textile process involves brewing tea (black, green, or rooibos tea can be used for this purpose) and adding sugar, vinegar, or previously brewed kombucha to maintain a favourable pH level.

“One then inoculates the sweetened tea with a starter culture of acetic acid bacteria and yeasts, also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). It is then left for two to four weeks under specific conditions, during which the fermentation process takes place. In this period, the cellulose gradually starts to form on the liquid’s surface,” Monnapula explained.

However, she says there is still plenty of room for improvement and further development before reaching a point where she can introduce her work as a contender in the South African market.

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