#SustainableStartup: How a Kerala Duo Is Turning Coconut Water Into Vegan Leather

Environmentalists have long been protesting against the leather industry that is not only cruel towards animals but also leaves a huge ecological impact. Its tanning processes emit thick black smoke into the atmosphere and toxic wastewater is released into freshwater bodies.

But a Kerala startup has come up with a vegan, eco-friendly alternative that looks and feels like leather but is made using coconut water. Malai Biomaterials was co-founded by Susmith C Suseelan and Slovakia’s Zuzana Gombosava in 2018.

“I was motivated by the idea to develop a material that is circular in nature, doesn’t harm the environment, and can be used in the realm of fashion and product design,” says Zuzana, adding that it takes only 150 days for the material to decompose.

How does it work?

There are primarily two processes involved. First is the fermentation where coconut water is fed to a particular type of bacteria. Once this ferments, the sugar extract is converted into cellulose and can be used to make sheets or any three-dimensional shape.

This PETA-approved organisation is currently working alongside the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Hyderabad to improve their material and make it affordable as well.

Watch the story of Malai here:

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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