Sustainable Seaweed
Nomuna Munkh-Orgil, Sydney Kagetsu
Point Grey Secondary
Floor Location : S 052 V

When purchasing textiles, do you scan the clothing label containing its ingredients? If not, it’s time you did! More than 63% of our clothing is made from synthetic polymers derived from petroleum, a fossil fuel that is the antithesis for living environmentally friendly. Our project explores the threat of synthetic fibres used in the textile industry and the rising potential for biopolymers to lead the way to a more sustainable future.

Additionally, we wanted to integrate British Columbia’s natural resources and use locally grown material. Our coast is a hot spot for seaweed biodiversity, with approximately 650 macroalgal species inhabiting Northeast Pacific waters. Kelp is one of the fastest-growing species on Earth and acts as a filter for our water. We believe that this versatile natural resource has been overlooked; therefore, our project is dedicated to kelp and its potential to be a widespread, bio-based material.

Our research explores a byproduct of kelp, alginate. Currently, alginate is used in the medical, pharmaceutical, and textile fields. Plus, it is commonly used as a thickening or binding agent in food and beverages. Alginate is a prospect for a biomaterial in the fashion industry due to its easy accessibility and low impact on the environment. It is biodegradable and requires lower quantities of oil for production.

After researching, we decided to take our knowledge to the lab and extracted alginate from laminaria digitata, a brown seaweed species. In the lab, we used the scientific method to extract the biopolymer and used potassium hydroxide, calcium chloride, and acetic acid. Through trial and error, we developed our procedure and fabricated alginate. It is in the form of a powder and has the potential to become a fibre. Our project shows that kelp is an up-and-coming natural resource and could replace major polymers, including cotton and polyesters, with more experimentation and research.