At ReGrained, we are passionate about finding delicious ways to fight food waste. There is a myriad of possibilities for upcycling in a way to align the food we eat with the planet we love, but what if there was a way to extend this mission by making decisions that reduce your closet's carbon footprint as well?
Introducing Mi Terro: a Los Angeles based startup that turns milk waste into soft and allergen-free clothing.
We spoke with Mi Terro Founder & CEO Robert Luo to learn more about how the company is helping to reduce the 128 million tons of milk wasted every year and what their innovative technology means for the future of mitigating plastic use worldwide.
What is Mi Terro, and what inspired you to start the business?
"Mi Terro is a biotechnology company that rescues and re-engineers food waste into sustainable fibers and biopolymers to replace plastic in fashion, medical and packaging industries. My personal story is that I visited my uncle’s dairy farm in China and saw buckets and buckets of spoiled milk on his farm which led me to investigate food waste in agriculture and then in all industries. I realized it’s a huge problem that we just don’t talk about enough."
How is milk waste defined? How does Mi Terro ultimately obtain milk waste resources in order to ensure that the products are scalable?
"Milk waste is defined as expired, spoiled, or bacterial-grown milk. We partner with farmers and food processing facilities to obtain milk waste."
How do you see this technology crossing over into other industries in order to reduce plastic waste? For example, is there a way for this upcycling process to help mitigate single-use plastic packaging in the CPG space?
"Yes, we are developing a new technology that recycles whey, which is the byproduct of yogurt and cheese production, and re-engineers it into biodegradable food packaging film to replace plastic. Whey protein is a part of milk."
Do you ever face challenges with consumers being hesitant to try Mi Terro due to the products being made of milk waste? How does Mi Terro work to change the conversation of waste to be one that is productive and regenerative rather than something that is useless and unwanted?
"When we first started the company, there were vegans who misunderstood our mission of reducing food waste. They thought we were promoting dairy consumption, but we were actually raising awareness on too much dairy consumption which results in excess dairy waste. Dairy is just the beginning. We are also testing vegan products. Our technology aims to rescue any type of protein-based food waste."
Can you touch on any additional valuable properties of the upcycled material beyond its positive environmental impact? How does the material differ from the traditionally used cotton?
"Milk fiber has amino acids that are excellent for people that have skin allergy. Our skin absorbs microfibers from our clothing, so it is important to choose natural and non-toxic materials that are healthy for our bodies. Also, our milk fiber's softness and comfort are unmatchable by cotton."
What is Mi Terro’s goal in moving forward and spreading the awareness of such important technology that works to reduce food waste? Looking downstream in the supply chain, are there future intentions to work with larger brands and have them incorporate this material into their fashion products as well?
"We are developing partnerships with farmers, food companies, and buyers. We are currently participating in Dairy Farmers of America's Accelerator. DFA is the largest raw milk supplier and the sixth biggest dairy producer in the world. We want to revolutionize the way agricultural waste is utilized. We are taking a world problem and turning it into a world solution."
Pretty neat, huh? Check Mi Terro out and give your closet and upcycled upgrade!