Mike Joyce (Source: PrimaLoft)
Stakeholders across the textile industry are constantly faced with a variety of challenges that affect every step of the supply chain, from the sourcing of materials through the environmental impact of a finished product. In recent years, many of these challenges have served as a catalyst, pushing the industry towards a more sustainable future.
Sustainability in textiles has long been rooted
in the use of post-consumer recycled material. The use of recycled content is no longer a unique selling point; it is the standard to which we are all held. Recycling is a necessary step towards sustainability goals that provides a number of advantages, including removing the need for new raw materials, reducing the carbon emissions produced to make products, and keeping a significant portion of existing materials out of waste systems. However, recycling has never been the final answer; it is just the first step in our sustainable journey.
It is imperative that we take a holistic and comprehensive approach to sustainability. At PrimaLoft, this is done through the lens of the Relentlessly Responsible platform that is focused on elevating both performance and sustainability, through innovation. We break down our work into 2 major themes: what we make, and how we make it. At the end of the day, we are working to extend the useful life of materials while reducing the carbon footprint of the products’ production.
The model for sustainable production is not linear, it is a loop system. It all starts with that first step: using raw material made from recycled content. This not only diverts plastic from landfills, oceans and other environments, it significantly reduces the carbon emitted during production.
From there, it is essential that we develop end materials that are designed to provide high performance and to last the entire life of a garment – from the first person to wear it off the rack, through its extended life as it is passed down or resold.
How the products are made matters
just as much as the materials used. Suppliers need to focus on minimizing their carbon footprint during manufacturing. Reducing energy consumption through updated production processes and more efficient sources of energy is a crucial component, with one example being the recent updates PrimaLoft made with its PURE (produced using reduced emissions) manufacturing technology. Recycled packaging options and reduced shipping distances can also help to reduce the impact across the supply chain.
We must also focus on how to reduce impact during the life of a product. Microfibers that shed from textiles during use and laundering have become a tremendous issue – 30 % of microfibers found in the ocean are from textiles. Combatting this issue through the use of biodegradable material has become a trending topic within the textile industry.
A key technology in the synthetic textile space is e.g. PrimaLoft Bio, which was developed to accelerate the degradation of synthetic fibers, returning them to materials found in nature if fibers are shed from the apparel and make their way to environments like landfills, wastewater or oceans. This reduces the long-term impact of microplastics in those environments.
In order to close the loop, suppliers need to ready their material for chemical and textile to textile recycling. Traditional mechanical recycling methods are prone to producing lower quality materials. We need to focus on building up the infrastructure that will enable large-scale implementation of chemical and textile to textile recycling, so that materials can be remade into new products that achieve the same level of high performance, starting the loop over again.
Looking to the future, reducing our footprint means moving past simply using recycled content. Our industry needs to move away from fossil fuel-derived textile materials from the start.
Removing the need for fossil fuel-based raw materials
all together, should be a definitive goal. Companies like Origin Materials are leading the way in the development of carbon negative materials. The Origin platform uses waste from wood, carboard and pulp to create carbon negative materials that reduce the need for fossil fuels. In recent months, PrimaLoft has partnered with Origin Materials and utilized this technology to produce fine denier fibers suitable for use in textiles. The companies will continue to collaborate on a multi-year development plan to commercialize this disruptive technology, with the hopes to have prototypes ready by 2023.
Ultimately, technological advancement does not need to come at the expense of environmental or social responsibility. This is the core of the Relentlessly Responsible mission.
The necessary change that is needed to push
the textile industry forward cannot be achieved by any company alone. We must continue to work together, both within our space and across other industry sectors. Every link in the chain, from manufacturing through retail and consumers, will have a part to play. Innovative technologies that reduce impact will proliferate throughout the textile industry and beyond.
PrimaLoft = registered trademark
President and CEO
Saratoga County, NY/USA