The global textile industry is considered one of the world's biggest polluters. Increasing numbers of textile and apparel companies are focusing on sustainable fabric manufacturing and are rapidly adopting more sustainable processes for textile production. By optimizing production processes, PrimaLoft can reduce its carbon footprint. With the further development of the company’s proprietary technology for PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. insulation fibers, CO2 emissions in production are now reduced by up to 70%.
What prompted PrimaLoft to create this new product? What are PrimaLoft's most important tasks and goals with it?
Actually, PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. is not a new product, but a manufacturing process. In our effort to be Relentlessly Responsible, we are always searching for new ways to reduce our environmental impact – not only on a product level, but also in the way we are making them. PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. started as a challenge from one of our key brand partners, which prompted us to complete a comprehensive environmental assessment of our insulation manufacturing processes. We looked at our materials, the product design and the process itself, innovating at each step to drastically reduce the carbon emissions produced. Over the past 4 years, our engineers have worked on this manufacturing technology to significantly improve the efficiency throughout the production process.
What could a sustainable textile and apparel industry look like in the future? How do you see the role of the industry here, and what is the role of the consumer?
I’m convinced that the textile industry can change for good in future, but it needs the collaboration of all stakeholders and obviously the consumer. The main challenges from an industry perspective are raw materials, production processes and the establishment of a circular economy.
We need to move away from creating new fossil-based materials as soon as possible and to reduce our carbon footprint as much and as quick as possible. Using recycling as a first step makes sense but it is not the final solution. Finding biobased materials with the same performance features is key and we are also investing heavily in this direction. Earlier this year we announced a strategic alliance with Origin Materials to develop and functionalize high-performance, non-fossil fuel fibers and filaments for an array of textile applications. The Origin platform turns sustainable wood residue into cost-advantaged, carbon-negative materials that reduce the need for fossil resources. We are convinced that this partnership will lead to game changing innovations, from which the whole industry can benefit.
Another big challenge is to establish a real circular system. Designing a circular-ready product is already possible. Just look at adidas, who has developed shoes and initial garments that use only a single material throughout and that can be completely recycled and reused again. There are 2 bigger issues that we need to overcome as an industry. A proper return system through retail, and/or the brands directly, needs to be installed, which will make it easier for consumers to return their garments. And the infrastructure for large scale chemical recycling, which makes it possible to create the same quality materials again and again without the need of downcycling, must be put into place. We have seen a lot of efforts within the last 1-2 years, but it takes time to make it scalable for the whole industry. PrimaLoft is already prepared for this as all our polyester materials are circular ready.
The consumer role in changing the game is crucial and people need to make more conscious choices when purchasing garments. Instead of thinking only about cheap prices, they should think about things like “Do I really need this? How long will it last? Can it be repaired? Is there a way to return it?” Especially in the younger generations I see more and more of those “conscious consumers”, that already have this mindset – this makes me feel very positive for the future.
What will be the biggest challenges for the global textile industry after the Corona pandemic?
That is a good question. Nearly all stakeholders of the industry have been heavily impacted by the pandemic – and still are. I think there will be lots of challenges – first and foremost reinstalling a fully functioning supply chain will be key to ensure production and delivery of garments get back on track.
The pandemic and its impact on dispersed global manufacturing and transportation has uncovered previously undetected risk to our industry. We certainly understood the potential impact to our factories, but we did not fully understand the tenacles into limited cargo, delays at the docks, and the resulting supply and demand. Going forward I believe this risk will be mitigated this by balancing locally and regionally.
From the retail side we are seeing trend toward e-commerce shopping accelerating at brisk pace. It will not replace brick and mortar retail but will be an integral part of the consumer buying process.
Relentlessly Responsible – registered trademark
PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. - registered trademark
The interview was conducted by Mechthild Maas, editor of TextileTechnology, with Mike Joyce, President and CEO, PrimaLoft Inc., Latham, NY/USA