Dupont, Unifi join hands for high-performance insulation products
Sustainability has become a critical feature of many textiles, from recycled to bio-based to bio-degradable and longer-lasting materials. Yet the future of eco-efficiency lies in performance. DuPont Industrial Bioscience is driving a number of collaborations to create applications that combine sustainability and high performance. DuPont recently joined forces with Unifi to create a breakthrough eco-friendly cold-weather apparel insulation. Renee Henze, global marketing director at DuPont Biomaterials, and Jay Hertwig, vice president of global brand sales at Unifi Manufacturing Inc., talk about the latest collaboration and the development of innovative cold-weather insulation fibres.
Tell us in brief about DuPont's collaborations with Unifi.
Jay Hertwig (JH): As leaders in the fibre industry, DuPont and Unifi recognise the pressing need to transform the way apparel is made and leverage more sustainable materials. By combining our unique capabilities and expertise, our goal is to fuse two sustainable solutions together to create high performance insulation products and textiles. Unifi Repreve fibres contain 100 per cent recycled materials, including plastic water bottles.
Renee Henze (RH): DuPont Sorona fibres are made from 37 per cent renewable plant-based ingredients. Our collaboration will give customers the freedom to choose a new type of garment insulation, one that is better for the environment without compromising on performance.
What is the kind of technology being used to create renewably-sourced garment insulation?
RH: It is a collection of performance insulation wadding products. The combination of Sorona and Repreve fibres creates a high-performance, durable insulation that dries quickly and keeps its shape even after washing. The long-lasting mechanical stretch bio-component staple Sorona fibres allow the insulation to keep its loft, creating the lightweight warmth or insulation effect.
What is the carbon footprint of the cold weather insulation material co-created by DuPont and Unifi versus the ones available in the market?
JH: Together, Repreve and Sorona fibres create a recycled and renewably-sourced garment insulation, offering leading apparel brands a new high-performance, sustainable choice for cold-weather products. Repreve fibres are made from 100 per cent recycled materials to help conserve precious natural resources and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
RH: The manufacturing process of DuPont Sorona polymers uses 30 per cent less energy and 63 per cent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as compared to Nylon 6.
Which brands or retailers have already partnered with you for your new insulation material? Do you see end-uses beyond apparel?
JH: The main application is apparel insulation; secondarily, the product works well as home textile filling. We discussed the collection of developmental materials with leading apparel brands at the Outdoor Retailer and ISPO Munich shows in January.
What is the global market size for recycled, bio-based and bio-degradable materials? At what rate is it growing?
RH: The global demand for eco-efficient materials across industries is rising and the textile market is undergoing a pivotal shift to reduce its environmental footprint. For example, according to Textile Exchange, the global market for bio-based products is estimated to grow to $250 billion by 2020. In addition, one-third of chemicals and materials will be produced from biological sources, inclusive of bio-polymers and bio-plastics, by 2030.
US-based market intelligence firm Transparency Market Research found that the global synthetic and bio-based biodegradable plastics market will report a compound annual growth rate of 19.5 per cent from 2011 to 2018. This is across various industries, including packaging, electronics, agriculture, automotive and transportation.
JH: The global recycled polyester market is also strengthening. According to PCI WoodMackenzie, global demand for 100 per cent PC rPET for fibre and other market segments, including sheet, strapping and packaging, was estimated at around 9.7 million metric tonnes or 21.4 billion pounds in 2017.
DuPont also recently collaborated with Invista's Cordura brand and DuPont Tate & Lyle's Susterra brand to launch a high performance soft-shell fabric. Please share a few details about it.
RH: Invista and DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio Products have been collaborating to create next-generation eco-efficient textile solutions. The most recent development was announced in October, when Invista, DuPont and DuPont Tate & Lyle unveiled an innovative new soft-shell fabric that integrates DuPont Sorona fibres as a fleece layer.
The soft-shell laminate features a durable Cordura Naturalle fabric on the outer face, a middle layer polyurethane bio-based membrane containing more than 25 per cent renewable sourced materials by weight and a soft fleece backing based on Sorona fibres. The integration of the lightweight Sorona fibre-based fleece helps provide warmth and a soft hand. The result is a fabric engineered to help keep you comfortable, while combining long-lasting durability and bio-based performance.
What new ground-breaking innovations are you working on at DuPont Industrial Biosciences?
RH: As Sorona fibres can be incorporated with many different fibre and fabric technologies to develop next generation textile solutions, there will be more collaborations this year. DuPont Industrial Biosciences has also pioneered a breakthrough fibre that provides a sustainable option at the end of use. Developed through a patented and innovative technology, biodegradable Apexa polyester fully decomposes and breaks downs into simple CO2 and H2O via an industrial compositing process.
Which are the major markets for bio-based materials for DuPont? Where do you see the applications growing?
RH: It is really a global market and the Sorona fibre exhibits a variety of properties, including softness, stretch and recovery, wrinkle resistance, durability, reduced pilling, which make it extremely versatile. Because of this, the Sorona fibres span applications across many different apparel segments, including ready-to-wear, suiting, outdoor, yoga, insulation, swimwear, intimates and denim.
What will the future sustainable fibres and fabrics be like?
JH: Ultimately, sustainable products need to exhibit high performance to have a seat at the table. As there is a critical need to transform the apparel manufacturing process and leverage more sustainable materials from recycled and renewable resources, more brands will want to be able to choose from a variety of eco-efficient options - ones that lessen environmental impact without compromising performance. As such, there will be more fabrics available that are designed to provide eco-efficient solutions that last longer.
Unifi recently recycled its 10 billionth PET bottle. What are the milestones set next?
JH: Since the inception of Repreve fibres, Unifi has recycled more than 10 billion plastic bottles, and is targeting 20 billion bottles recycled by 2020 and 30 billion bottles by 2022. To recognise customers who have partnered for this achievement, Unifi is also launching the Repreve Champions of Sustainability, which will recognise and award companies that are committed to manufacturing sustainable products with Repreve fibres. (HO)