We speak to Jochen Lagemann, Managing Director of PrimaLoft Europe and Asia, about the materials science company becoming the first to develop an insulation made entirely from recycled PET bottles
What are PrimaLoft’s overall sustainability goals and milestones so far?
Our team has long been committed to sustaining an ethical and environmentally conscious business, focusing on developing innovative comfort solutions with high performance fibre technologies, which lessen environmental impact.
Back in 2015, we set ourselves a well-defined goal to convert at least 90 percent of our insulation product line to contain a minimum of 35 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) content, but without any compromise on performance. By 2017 we realised we could do so much more, so we increased our target for PCR content to 50 percent.
Our highest performing benchmark PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation now contains 55 percent recycled content without any impact of user performance or price increase for our customers. Across our Gold, Silver and Black series of insulations, we have managed to recycle close to 85 million plastic bottles to date – which is around 4.7 million pounds of recycled content.
A 100 percent PCR insulation is a game changer for the industry – well done! Please tell us more about your latest innovation
As the outdoor industry looks for ever more sustainable solutions, our development team in Latham, New York, has strived to create the first insulation made entirely from PCR content. With technology advancement and after much development and extensive research, using various recycling and production process trials and testing, our expert R&D-team made an exciting breakthrough. The end-result was the production of 100 percent recycled high-performance fibres that are softer than cashmere, but with unmatched thermal performance.
At OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen, we will introduce PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation 100% PCR and PrimaLoft® Black Insulation 100% PCR, plus PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Luxe™. Our new insulations have all the renowned properties that have made PrimaLoft the benchmark in performance insulation, for example low weight and bulk, remaining warm and dry even when wet, and high compressibility.
How many plastic bottles go into an average sized jacket?
This depends on the thickness of the insulation our brand partner would like to use. But to create the insulation layer for a light summer jacket with 40g thickness, around nine commercially available PET bottles are necessary.
Why do you think it has taken so long to develop a 100% PCR insulation?
The main stumbling block has been being able to produce a fibre stable enough to meet our strict performance standards. The melting points of the collected PET bottles used to make recycled fibre differ to those of virgin fibres.
Tell us a little about the process
Plastic bottles are salvaged from landfill sites, then cleaned and shredded into chips and later into little pellets. These are then melted down and transformed into high-performance PrimaLoft® fibres.
Are there any outdoor brands that have committed to using your 100% PCR insulations so far?
Fortunately, most of our brand partners are also committed to sustainability, so we already have a good number of customers who will use our new products. Vaude and Isbjörn of Sweden, for example, will completely switch all their PrimaLoft insulated products to our 100% PCR versions by summer 2019. Other brand partners from outdoor and fashion are 66 North, Armed Angels, J Lindeberg, Maloja and Sweet Protection.
After this ground-breaking development, what does the future hold?
We are committed to sustainable business practices and reducing impact at all levels, from development through to manufacture. Going forward, we will continue to reduce our environmental footprint throughout the supply chain, focusing on energy and carbon emission reduction and usage of natural plant-based fibres.