100% Plant, 0% Plastic, Recyclable, Biodegradable, Totally Scalable, Eco-Friendly and Sustainable. This is the much sought-after combination of attributes that is the holy grail for the faux leather industry.
And its creation may have already happened!
Luke Haverhals is the founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding.
A company that believes not only that it has the technology to manufacture plant-based, plastic-free leather. But that it is close to producing and delivering this material on demand and on a commercial scale.
This belief makes Natural Fiber Welding’s product so appealing and promises a bright future ahead for the planet.
But what is this miracle product, and can it really deliver the undeliverable?
Let’s dive in and find out.
Vegan Leather – The Current Situation
At present, products that qualify as vegan or faux leather can be produced from a wide variety of materials. Furthermore, the regulation surrounding these products is equally as varied and not always followed.
So your vegan leather may not be as vegan as you believe!
Manufacturers do not have to reveal all of their ingredients which opens the door for misuse and the application of animal-based glues.
Moreover, plant-based vegan leather alternatives may include PVC or PU-based plastics or/and bioplastics within their construction.
Bioplastic is quite the buzzword at the moment as it sounds great and very eco-friendly. But bio-plastics can be hard to destroy and don’t always break down easily under normal environmental conditions.
How It’s Made – Synthetic Leather.
Furthermore, bioplastics are traditionally weak and may need the support of petroleum-based plastics to support them.
Therefore, when these bioplastic-based products are dumped into the environment, they can do more harm than good.
Please read my article – What is vegan leather, and is it ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly.
So while it is easy to understand what vegan leather should be (animal and cruelty-free), there may be some disconnect in achieving it.
Hence the need for transparency and a 100% plastic and animal-free material that can be guaranteed to be vegan.
Mirum — named from the Latin word, miraculum, for wonder or miracle — is a high-performance plant-based material with 100% natural inputs and zero use of plastic.
It is an entirely new medium unlike any other in the marketplace today. In fact, it’s so new that the company is patenting the methods that it uses in its manufacture.
Therefore, at the moment, it cannot share the finer details of the technology with the global community.
However, the key innovation involves melding natural fibers together without the use of any synthetic glues. Hence the company name, Natural Fiber Welding. Do you see what they did there!
The founding mantra of the company is “plants, not plastic.” And to this end, the company works very hard to ensure that no petroleum-based products are ever used.
All the raw materials must be 100% natural, plant-based and biodegradable, with the finished product never being coated in polyurethane or PVC.
This is sadly not the case with many other types of plant-based vegan leathers. Many of whom may advocate the use of petroleum-based plastics within their production processes.
What Is Mirum Made From?
The raw materials for Mirum are all abundant in nature and could consist of virgin plant material or 100% organic waste byproducts.
For example, cork powder, a byproduct of making corks for wine, can be blended with coconut fiber from discarded husks and natural rubber.
However, as Natural Fiber Welding is creating a new bonding process for 100% plant-based materials without synthetics, the possibilities are limitless.
How Is Mirum Made?
This new, relatively young company uses all-natural ingredients in ready abundance upon the earth.
These ingredients may include cork, hemp, rubber, coconut, and vegetable oil. However, this is not an exhaustive list but rather just a sample released for discussion by the company.
At NFW, the 100% natural plant-based ingredients are mixed with resin, and rubber-based materials and selected minerals are added.
Even the odorants and antioxidants that they use are of natural origin.
As the process is under patent, the exact chemistry involved is hidden; however, a secret salt solution is added, which kick starts a reaction. This reaction then glues the fibers together, creating a strong but flexible composite.
At this point, natural pigments and dyes are added, and the stretchy material is pressed into molds. This helps to set the attributes of thickness, style, and texture.
Finally, it’s baked, cooled, sorted, and cut into sheets or rolled to a specific size for distribution.
Why Move Away From Fossil Fuel Resources?
Natural Fiber Welding was founded on the premise that people are too dependent on petroleum-based materials. Furthermore, these petroleum-based materials are harmful to life and are a limited resource that is quickly diminishing.
The extraction, transportation, processing, and chemical enhancement of fossil fuel resources also creates damaging greenhouse gasses.
However, the demand for them is high, and we currently have very few alternatives to them.
Therefore NFW believes that any replacement for fossil fuel-based products must be by definition abundant, scalable, desirable, and eco-friendly.
To this end, NFW looked towards plant material as it is the second most abundant material on earth — second only to water. However, scalability is the key as the global economy is huge and requires products both quickly and in mass.
Is Mirum Scalable For The Commercial Market?
Scalability then was always a driving factor in the development of their patented melding process.
The NFW process was developed to be both fast and efficient. And to leverage plant materials in the best and most scalable way to address the petroleum problem.
Or, as the company CEO puts it:-
“We aren’t trying to create a vegan thing for the sake of veganism; we’re creating this because it’s the most scalable technology humanity can access.”
This is great news for ecologists as the continued scaling of fossil-fueled resources is both unsustainable and hugely damaging to the planet.
Is Mirum CO2 Heavy?
Mirum is offsetting its CO2 emissions by utilizing waste byproducts from other industries. This, in turn, helps it to reduce its overall global emissions.
Furthermore, Mirum requires no tanning and is made from natural polymers and materials bonded together without the use of synthetics. Further reducing its CO2 emissions.
NFW estimates that they are presently producing just 0.2 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kg of Mirum produced.
This is an extremely low figure and unheard of in the fashion industry which means that exciting times are ahead!
Is Mirum Recyclable And Biodegradable?
NFW passionately believes that it is the responsibility of manufacturers to strive to eliminate waste and to ensure eco-friendly end-of-life options.
Mirum has therefore been designed with the core fundamentals of being fully biodegradable and 100% recyclable. This means that not only does Mirum contain no petrochemicals, but it fits nicely into the circular system.
In other words, Mirum is manufactured, used, returned to NFW, disassembled, and then reassembled into fresh Mirum material.
Amazingly, any Mirim not returned to NFW will return to the soil and biodegrade naturally, releasing its nutrients back into the soil.
In this way, no inputs are lost, extra CO2 is not created, and the conditions for a circular system are met.
And on the point of recycling, the company CEO claims that they’ve recycled Mirum 12 times with no degradation to the material in laboratory tests.
It is this dual purpose of being both recyclable and 100% biodegradable required that makes Mirum an exhilarating prospect.
Is Mirum Ethical, Eco-Friendly And Sustainable?
Mirum is unique at the moment in that it does not contain any petrochemicals or animal derivatives in its production. It is free of any PLAs (plant-based plastics) and is 100% plant-based in its atomic makeup.
NFW has patented a unique melding process that uses new or recycled plant fibers to create a new and flexible material. This material requires no fresh water input, and all the dyes used in its production are non-toxic natural pigments.
Mirum is made with 100% natural inputs (plant materials), is toxin-free, and is fully biodegradable under normal conditions. End-of-life Mirum can be returned to NFW and recycled into new material.
Any material that biodegrades will return fresh nutrients into the soil and encourage new life, not kill it.
This is a great leap forward as the vegan leather of today will leach toxins into the soil and damage the environment.
As the material is plant-based and can be made from a large range of plant matter, it is fully scalable and eco-friendly.
Unlike other vegan solutions in development, new planting ground may not be needed to grow the base material.
This is great news for animal habitats and forests currently under threat from a deforestation perspective.
For these reasons, I conclude that Mirum is an ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly vegan leather material.
In my article about vegan leathers, I tried to stress the importance of being skeptical about the validity of the words vegan leather.
How can a product be cruelty-free when it contains toxins and plastics that will harm life once it is has been discarded?
I also pointed out the irony of calling the material leather, which to my mind, will only stimulate the market for real leather products.
By naming this new material Mirum, NFW has cleverly removed itself from this ethical debate and naming conundrum.
However, the market for vegan leather is increasing, as is manipulating those looking to buy cruelty-free leather.
Without full transparency, more fossil fuels will be excavated, processed, chemically altered, and added into the vegan leather industry.
The inevitable result will be an increase in greenhouse gasses, plastic pollution, toxins in the environment, and planetary pollution.
Mirum, however, gives us a workable and scalable solution to that petrochemical and environmental problem.
It is both fully recyclable and biodegradable and does not require vast amounts of land or processing time for its creation. Mirum is also completely transparent in its make up.
A strong factor in providing a feeling of security to all those who wish to purchase true cruelty-free products.
Therefore I believe NFW has created an exciting and ethical technology that may free us from the over-dependence on petroleum-based products.
And Mirums versatility could make it a fashion industry favorite whilst also replacing the faux leather trade in other industries.
Furthermore, unlike other plant-based vegan leathers in development, NFW is close to having a scalable working product.
To showcase this, NFW produced a pilot product that was a Mirum leather door covering for the Porsche Taycan.
This is an important development as the auto industry now consumes nearly 48% of all faux leather.
So the future is bright, and the global release of Mirum may not be that far off!