Primaloft, a global provider in advanced insulating material technology solutions, recently presented Primaloft Bio, the first synthetic insulation made from 100% recycled and almost entirely biodegradable fibers (out of the fibers employed 80.3% biodegrade in 394 days in an anaerobic biodigester environment). Such a process is highly accelerated when compared to the negligible degradation observed in standard polyester, under the same conditions, and it leaves behind water, methane, carbon dioxide and biomass.
Jochen Lagemann, senior vice president and managing director of Europe & Asia Primaloft, explains characteristics and future employs of this technology that is expected to hit the consumer market in fall 2020.
Primaloft developed this new material already in 2014 but it is launching it only now. Why?
Our mission to be “Relentlessly Responsible” is at the forefront of everything we do, and we were already working on our first biodegradable insulation well before microplastics in the oceans came on to the news agenda. In 2014 the first idea was born. First, we thought, that’s impossible. Then, we set in motion an action plan to begin the research to make this impossibility a reality. It took us two years to research, two years to develop and one year to test using a third-party laboratory. We strive wherever possible to reconcile top product performance with minimal environmental impact, while still maintaining economic viability. It takes quite some time behind the scenes to create game changing innovation.
What difficulties did you have to face before achieving this new technology?
During the process of engineering any technology, adjustments are required. Our biggest challenges were the long period of time and high cost of the testing required to ascertain the biodegradation rate. Every fiber iteration or change to the fiber composition has to be tested to verify the biodegradability. Now, Primaloft is focused on ensuring that it can scale to meet market demand and have the resources in place to make this happen.
Will this material be more expensive than regular paddings?
We’re still working on whether we can sell it at the same price as we did with our recycled insulations in the past. Using recycled fibers itself is more expensive than using virgin fibers, but we said we’d take a margin hit and earn less money. Otherwise we won’t have any buy-in from our brand customers and as a consequence no positive impact on the overall supply chain and our industry. But Primaloft Bio product is not only 100 % recycled, we also have to add a “secret sugar” for the microbes so they like it better. That costs money was well.
What about this product’s technical performances and wearability?
The product has exactly the same properties and the same performance as our previous products that were not biodegradable. Product features such as thickness, weight, insulation value, washability and performance are the same.
We changed the characteristics of the polymer. We added what we call a “secret sugar,” which is patented, to the polymer. This enables the product to biodegrade at a highly accelerated rate as the fibers are more attractive to the naturally occurring microbes found in specific environments like in landfill or the ocean. The microbes eat away at the fibers at an accelerated rate, returning the insulation to nature.
Moreover, Primaloft Bio insulation will only biodegrade when exposed to the microbes in specific environments so, the insulation remains highly durable throughout its usable life cycle in a garment.
In the end the jacket will not feel any different to consumers. Consumers will enjoy a truly environmentally friendly product that does not compromise performance, while being 100% recycled and biodegradable.
For our brand partners we will offer Primaloft Bio in different thicknesses as usual and we also plan to enlarge our biodegradable insulation range to all of our products step by step. We will provide this technology to all our brand partners and hope to get interest also from new brands. We are already in contact with select globally respected outdoor and fashion brands that share our commitment to designing and manufacturing the most sustainable apparel possible. We expect Primaloft Bio to be part of their product lines that will be introduced at retail in fall 2020. But we are also open to the use of this technology for other industries and we are looking at other industries like, for instance, home goods.
How is the consumer involved in buying sustainable products?
When a consumer purchases a jacket with Primaloft Bio insulation, he or she benefits by knowing they are helping alleviate the global textile waste problem by wearing apparel that completely biodegrades at an accelerated rate compared to standard polyester fiber. Nowadays, consumers are much more aware and are becoming much more conscious of the environmental impact of every purchase, especially with topics such as ocean pollution and global warming being so prevalent. We have to be realistic of course and fully realize that price and design still take priority over sustainability for many consumers, but this is slowly changing. Even though sustainability is such a complex topic, there is a change in people’s thinking as they realize every purchase and every waste has an impact towards the future of our planet. Younger buying groups, such as Generation Z, are already more environmentally conscious and research has shown they are willing to pay more for a greener product.We hope that Primaloft Bio can be another aspect in the mindset of consumers, which influences their buying decisions towards more sustainable products. We are working with the most respected global brands and brought the technology to industry leaders that share our commitment to the environment, while providing first-rate apparel to their customers. These brand partners will play an important role in the debut of this proprietary technology and we look forward to our continued collaboration.