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VH Essay

You Asked, We Answered: Biodegradation 101

We are playing an active role in fighting climate change. One of the things we’re proud of as material innovators, is that our alternative leather is designed to biodegrade. Our goal has always been to design sustainable material with minimal environmental impact that consider the entire product life cycle. Which is why we use a proprietary technology in all of our formulations that causes plastic to biodegrade. But what does that mean exactly? And how does it work? Let’s take a look at the most asked questions.



How does biodegradation for your products work? 

The enhanced biodegradation technology integral within our products helps to attract over 600 different types of microbes in a landfill condition. The technology acts as a food source for microbes, helping them digest the product easier and eventually consume the product. As the microbes consume the product, they will generate gases like carbon dioxide and methane which can be harnessed and converted to renewable energy like electricity and heat. Water and biomass are the other products from the biodegradation process. To learn more about this process click here

How can you ensure the biodegradation of your products?

The ASTM D5511 testing standard was used to determine the degree and rate of biodegradation of our product under experimental conditions resembling a biologically active landfill environment. It is important to note that the test results will never reach 100% biodegradation. Test reports typically plateau around 90-95%. There will always be a few percentage points attributed to the biomass and water left behind.

How long does it take for plastic water bottles to biodegrade without the biodegradation technology?

The average time for the plastic bottles made with PET to biodegrade is between 450-1000 years (link). Our enhanced biodegradation technology allows the product to biodegrade at a greatly accelerated rate in the landfill condition. With our enhanced biodegradation technology, the biodegradation of our product occurs over decades rather than centuries in real landfills.


What about the formation of micro plastics?

Our added biodegradation technology is the key in prevention of microplastic formation in landfill conditions. Our technology attracts over 600 different types of microbes. First, the microbes break down the polymers to smaller molecules and then those small molecules get absorbed and degraded by the microbes leaving no microplastics. In other words, the microbes eat the material. 



Will my bag start to biodegrade at some point, and will the performance of the bag deteriorate over time?

No, your bag will not biodegrade unless it is disposed of in a zero-oxygen (anaerobic) environment such as a landfill. This zero-oxygen environment creates the right conditions for biodegradation to occur. Our goal is to create leather alternatives that perform better than animal leather and longevity is key. Our leather is designed to last!

Which von Holzhausen styles can biodegrade in a landfill?

All of the Technik-Leather and Banbu Leather we currently produce includes our biodegradation technology.  We run standardized testing for all of our materials in order to verify our claims and we will be sharing our testing results in the coming months.