The manufacturing process of "PrimaLoft Bio" fibers.

Material technology solutions firm PrimaLoft said today that it has revealed PrimaLoft Bio, the first 100 percent recycled, biodegradable fiber for synthetic insulation. Garments featuring the new fiber will be available to consumers in fall 2020.

A product developer at PrimaLoft initially sought to create a biodegradable fiber in 2014, when he asked his team during a weekly research and development meeting, “Why can’t we just make a jacket insulation that we can bury in the backyard?” PrimaLoft Bio was developed over a four-year period that included two years of research, two years to develop the process and more than a year of testing with an independent lab.

PrimaLoft simulated a landfill environment to test the biodegradability of its fiber against polyester and found that PrimaLoft Bio reached near complete biodegradation in 365 days and was “highly accelerated,” compared to the “negligible” degradation of standard polyester under the same conditions, the firm said. PrimaLoft Bio’s performance capabilities, look and feel remained unchanged throughout testing.

The company enhanced its PrimaLoft Bio fibers to be “more attractive” to naturally occurring microbes found in landfill or ocean environments, causing the microbes eat away at the fibers at a quicker rate to hasten the biodegradation process, “returning the insulation to nature” and leaving behind water, methane, carbon dioxide and biomass, or organic waste, the firm said. And because PrimaLoft Bio insulation will only biodegrade in landfills or bodies of water after exposure to microbes in those areas, the insulation is “highly durable” throughout its usable garment life cycle.

PrimaLoft’s “PrimaLoft Bio” fiber. Photo courtesy of PrimaLoft.  Seth Thompson/Photo courtesy of PrimaLoft

PrimaLoft Bio is part of the firm’s Relentlessly Responsible pledge, which encompasses its efforts to implement sustainable solutions company-wide to help reduce its footprint. In its 30-year history, PrimaLoft Bio is a milestone advancement for the firm. Mike Joyce, president and chief executive officer of PrimaLoft, told WWD, “The word relentless in our mind is that we’re not claiming to be perfect, but we’re claiming that we’re striving to be perfect, we’re trying to improve.” Among other sustainability initiatives, the company aims to have 90 percent of its product mix made with 50 percent or more post-consumer recycled content without sacrificing performance by 2020; the firm that by the end of 2018, it will be very close to reaching that goal.

And with PrimaLoft Bio, the product “is leading the charge by redefining what sustainability really means,” Joyce said. “Recycling is a good start, but we are intent on providing a better answer to the environmental issues facing our industry. As we have been making sustainable products since 2007, PrimaLoft Bio speaks to the heart and soul of who we are.” Joyce continued, “We looked at the global issues, including the proliferation of textile waste and microplastics, and determined how PrimaLoft could make a positive impact within our core competencies — material science and polymers. This technology, the most significant global technology launch in the company’s history, provides a solution at the material level, which was key for our vision.”

Joyce described the industry’s shift toward sustainability as “sea change” and “not a trend, but a right angle,” noting that recycling and other eco-initiatives are mainly consumer driven. “We want our consumers to be able to reuse and recycle their garments for many years. Yet, we know that products have a life cycle and are eventually disposed of. PrimaLoft Bio goes hand in hand with sustainability, by providing a solution for the end of a garment’s life cycle. We are the first to address this challenge in the synthetic insulation category.”

Dr. Charles Lancelot, a materials technologist who worked alongside PrimaLoft during the testing process, said PrimaLoft Bio “has the potential to transform the outdoor and fashion/lifestyle industries’ supply chain,” and noted that more than “80 percent of discarded textile and garment wastes were landfilled in 2014, accounting for nearly 8 percent of the total waste.” Lancelot added, “This advanced biodegradation technology from PrimaLoft leverages progressive end-of-life material science and demands the attention of every apparel brand interested in making a smaller environmental footprint. PrimaLoft Bio is a leader in its conversion to energy-producing biogas during the active production lifetimes of most U.S. landfills, and it is setting a new industry standard for synthetic insulation.”

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