Disposing of Biodegradable Panties

There’s a new material created by a husband and wife team, called Cosyflex, that makes it possible to 3D print a new pair of underwear in just three seconds. (That’s approximately 10 million pairs per printer per year.)

Quick printing of a woven fabric is unique, and may inspire 3D printer owners. First underwear, and then…well, entire outfits. Victoria’s Secret might want to make their sexy lingerie with the CosyFlex material, because printing your own personalized underwear at the store means you’d get exactly what you want at the right size.

Cosyflex, the material used in the three-second panties, is a combination of polymers, such as natural latex, silicon, polyurethane and Teflon along with textile fibers such as cotton. On the web site, Cosyflex is described as made of ‘biodegradable materials’ and that has led to a spate of web articles calling the panties biodegradable.

Lots of materials are bidoegradable, including cotton, which is currently what a lot of underwear (generally fortified with a bit of plasticky Lycra) is made from, and Cosyflex includes cotton. But ‘biodegradable’ is a misleading term.

Cosyflex products may have an environmentally-friendly aspect because the 3D printing allows the manufacturer to avoid cutting-floor waste. However, using the term ‘biodegradable’ hints at a level of green that Cosyflex doesn’t have.

In fact, that term obscures our throwaway-and-forget-about-it mentality.

“We’re so obsessed with avoiding landfills that we’ve forgotten the waste hierarchy of reduce first, reuse, recycle,” said Lauren Norris, master recycler at the Portland Office of Sustainability. “It would take a life-cycle analysis to truly determine the sustainability of a ‘biodegradable’ underwear.”

But, Norris continued, while we all need underwear, if we think about the waste hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle – single-use underwear is about as green as single use ‘eco’ diapers. In other words, not very sustainable.

“Of course it’s always a good idea to try to find a market [for a used material] rather than use virgin materials,” Norris said. “But unless you turn something old into something new we’re not really doing what we hope to.”

The creators of CosyFlex plan to launch a single-use panty made from the material in 2014. They designed CosyFlex originally for women with heavy menstrual periods, so their product is more of a period panty than candy underwear, and it’s meant to be used just once and then disposed of…in the garbage. Likely it will be inside of some type of plastic bag, which takes eons to ‘biodegrade’.

Norris said she’d rather have a disposable diaper or so-called biodegradable panty in the landfill, where it could be properly managed as what it really is…waste.

(The ‘treehugger’ panties feature in the picture above are what you’ll see if you Google biodegradable panties.)

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper

Violet Sunderland

Damaged teflon cookware and extreme high-heat use of same is supposed to produce carcinogenic toxins. That wouldn't be good for the nether regions, nor the latex for anyone allergic to it. I won't go into the high-heat factor..... ;^D

j A4 years ago

more descriptors that should have consistent definitions

Mm M.
MmAway M4 years ago

OK Shut me up ~ I was furiously trying to sign off and saw this...How about have a Mom trying to dry a pantry in the window!? There is never a he he here guys deal with it and can I please die soon???

Victoria M.
Victoria M4 years ago

They already have disposable underwear in China. I had a roommate from China who hated washing her underwear. They often have the strange belief in Asia that it is unsanitary to put underwear in the washing machine, so it must be hand-washed. Personally, I'd think it would be much less clean to wash underwear by hand than use the washing machine.

So this roommate would get so lazy about washing her underwear that she would just toss it in the trash! So her mother started getting her disposable underwear and even mailed them to her in America, so she could have some underwear to wear after she threw away all her rest!

Dale O.

Single use, that makes little sense for the environment when one can simply do laundry for endless times and get multi usage out of one pair of panties. Another silly idea to spend money on.

Anne F.
Anne F4 years ago

biodegradable seems to be very loosely defined (won't compost, includes Teflon?)

Sheri P.
Sheri P4 years ago


Michael H.
Mike H4 years ago

Biodegradable panties? Sounds like dressing for a hot date.

Barb h
Ba H4 years ago

Jenna S, how many pics do you see? The one I got is a stock picture, not the actual product.