Experts from Organic Waste Systems laboratory in Ghent, Belgium examined how real and fake fur biodegrade in conditions simulating a real landfill. The scientific experiment aimed to test the so-called anaerobic biodegradation of both materials that are commonly used in fashion.
According to the results, the natural fur samples biodegraded over time as microorganisms such as bacteria were consuming the carbon inside the fur. On the other hand, the fake fur samples showed no signs of biodegradation.
“We assessed the biodegradation of natural fur and fake fur, which is a conventional plastic. It allows us to see what their impact is on the environment. As expected the bacteria were able to consume the real fur, so there is biodegradation. On the contrary, the bacteria were not able to consume the fake fur. In practice it means that when the fake fur reaches the landfill it will just sit there,” says Lies Debeer, a researcher at Organic Waste Systems.
“Environmental performance is a key objective for Fur Europe, and for anyone who thinks it is important to preserve the ecosystem that accommodates both animals and humans, it is logical to choose natural fibres over synthetic fibres. Choosing natural fur is a choice in favour of a sustainable planet,” said Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe.
According to the researchers, the lack of biodegradation in the fake fur is not surprising because of the composition of the material. While synthetics cannot biodegrade, over time they break into smaller pieces, eventually forming microplastic fibres – a contributor to plastic pollution.
The International Fur Federation and Fur Europe commissioned the laboratory test a part of a large scientific review of the fur sector’s environmental performance.