Jochen Lagemann, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of PrimaLoft Europe and Asia, reveals the details of their latest innovation, PrimaLoft® Bio™, the world’s first synthetic biodegradable insulation and fabric
You launched the world’s first synthetic biodegradable insulation and fabric, PrimaLoft® Bio™, at ISPO Munich earlier this year. Can you talk us through how it works?
PrimaLoft has enhanced the 100 percent recycled fibres used to produce its synthetic insulation and fabrics, without affecting their performance characteristics, enabling them to biodegrade* at a highly accelerated rate. The fibres break down when exposed to specific environments – like a landfill or the ocean. Our technical team has altered the fibres to be more attractive to the naturally occurring microbes found in these environments. The microbes eat away at the fibres at an accelerated rate, returning the insulation completely back to nature! The biodegradation process leaves behind water, methane, carbon dioxide and biomass. PrimaLoft® Bio™ insulation will only biodegrade when exposed to the microbes in these specific environments so the insulation and fabric remains highly durable throughout its usable life cycle in a garment. This technology will not change the performance, look or feel of the end product.
You recently announced that the PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibres are renewable in a circular economy. What does this mean?
A circular economy is an economic system aimed at minimising waste and re-capturing usable resources to be utilised within the system. This eliminates the need to introduce new natural resources and hence creates a closed loop. A circular economy is a more sustainable alternative to a traditional linear economy, which relies on the ‘take, make, dispose’ model of utilising resources.
As a result of third-party testing, our PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibres have proven capable of being chemically recycled at an impressive 95 percent yield rate. The process breaks down polyester to its basic components so that it can be renewed into a new high-performance material, without compromising its original integrity. This way the fibres can be reused over and over again which makes them usable for a circular system. In combination with the ability of the fibres to biodegrade, which is an end of life solution for our products, this is the next big step towards a more sustainable textile industry.
Why is this an important innovation?
PrimaLoft® is the first company to introduce a 100 percent recycled, biodegradable* synthetic insulation and fabric that supports circularity. Our intention was to always address the eventual end of life of a garment and close the system in an impactful way, while crucially finding a solution for the industry-wide microplastics issue.
After chemical recycling, the fibres can be reused to produce new insulation and fabric fibres. How are you going to implement this?
Consumers are definitely an important part of this system. If consumers ask to have their textiles renewed, purchase garments that can be renewed and support those brands that are leaders in sustainability with their purchases, this will become the new norm and investment in infrastructure will follow. Consumers are the catalyst. But of course, the whole textile industry has to work hand in hand to reach this goal – the sooner the better.
There are brands who are already working hard to implement circular systems. For example, Houdini from Sweden have been incentivising consumers already for some years to return used garments to them. This is a practice that we believe will evolve as circular systems scale up. There are also some factories that are currently capable of chemically recycling materials for the purpose of manufacturing new, high-quality raw materials, such as polyester – and the number is growing fast.
What are your goals for the future in terms of sustainability?
We are committed to being relentlessly responsible and will continue to focus on sustainable business practices and reducing impact at all levels of business, 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, fully biodegradable products in partnership with suppliers and brand owners, and also focusing on the use of natural plant-based fibres.
Talking about PrimaLoft® Bio™, we plan to enlarge the number of products that are biodegradable under the conditions described above, throughout our complete product range just as we are currently doing with PCR-content from PET bottles.
Are you working on any other innovations?
Of course, that’s what makes an ingredient brand successful. Our latest innovation is called PrimaLoft® NEXT, which is a completely new product platform matching the optimal properties and performance of insulation with the design flexibility of fabric. These products are a hybrid of the two components fused and engineered in a diverse array of textures and weights. The first outline in this new platform is the PrimaLoft® NEXT – Evolve Series, which was inspired by, and modelled after, structural benefits found in nature. Mimicking the properties of animal fur, PrimaLoft® NEXT – Evolve Series uses fibres of differing lengths and deniers (thickness) which create natural highs and lows in the material. This construction results in a fast-drying, advanced thermoregulating system that behaves like multiple layers without the bulk. It maximises airflow and breathability during activity and traps air for warmth when at rest. PrimaLoft® NEXT delivers nearly limitless options for designers seeking to experiment with garment and accessory silhouettes that can be worn across multiple seasons, particularly those with mid-range temperature fluctuation. An additional advantage is its ability to be colour-dyed or used in its natural colour.
To learn more about PrimaLoft and PrimaLoft® Bio™ insulation, visit stand B5-107 at OutDoor by ISPO. www.primaloft.com
* 86.1% biodegradation in 499 days under ASTM D5511 conditions – Standard Test Method for Determining Anaerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials Under High-Solids Anaerobic-Digestion Conditions
* 57.4% biodegradation in 486 days under ASTM D6691 conditions – Standard Test Method for Determining Aerobic Biodegradation of Plastic Materials in the Marine Environment by a Defined Microbial Consortium or Natural Sea Water Inoculum