The German outdoor specialist Vaude and Sympatex Technologies have formed a partnership to advance the development of high-performance ecological textiles.

Beginning Winter 2011-12, Vaude will be using the ecologically compatible and completely recyclable Sympatex membrane in its mountain sports and bike sports apparel lines as well as in its shoe collections. That will move the mountain sports supplier a step closer to realizing its major goal of environmentally friendly manufacturing throughout its entire range of products.

The step is important for the manufacturer, since Sympatex wants to gain more ground in the sports apparel industry, while the outdoor industry looks to increase functionality without any compromises. “With Vaude we have gained one of the most important outdoor brands on the market as an ideal partner who pursues highly ambitious environmental objectives. For both brands it is naturally clear that we are striving for ecological solutions that in no way reduce or negatively impact top performance for highest demands in sports,” said Michael Kamm, CEO, Sympatex.

The durable Sympatex membrane is 100% windproof and waterproof no less, withstanding the pressure of a water column of up to 25 meters. The special membrane technology ensures outstanding breathability that, according to the measurements of the Hohenstein Institute, surpasses even the classification of “extremely breathable” by evincing a RET value of under 1.5. The hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules of the membrane absorb body moisture and then use a physiochemical process to quickly expel moisture outward. Currently, Sympatex is also the thinnest membrane on the market, only 5 µm thick.

Meanwhile, the environment remains a priority at Vaude. The family-run business views its environmental commitment as a cycle that starts with product development and goes on to include manufacturing and product use. The commitment runs so deep it also impacts the company’s day-to-day operations through the implementation of measures that further corporate sustainability, such as EMAS certification. On this basis, Vaude is continually expanding its environmental activities and improving its ecological footprint.

A key milestone in this direction has been its membership with Bluesign, the most stringent production standard for synthetic textiles in terms of environmental protection, health and safety. As a Bluesign partner, Vaude made a commitment in 2008 to ultimately bring its entire product range into compliance with the demands of this industrial ecological standard.

In comparison, the Sympatex production method uses a material made from polyether and polyester, better known from the production of PET water bottles. The Sympatex membrane is comprised solely of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, while its production eschews the use of poisonous PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) or fluorocarbons often found in other standard membranes. Due to its composition, it is fully recyclable and allows for the pure polyether-ester production necessary for a meaningful recycling concept.

Vaude had been involved in synthetic textile recycling long before the outdoor industry took up the issue. It established the Ecolog Recycling Network in 1995, making it possible for the first time to fully recycle functional high tech apparel made from polyester. At that time Vaude chose to go with the polyester based Sympatex membrane, which was an important component in the Ecolog concept. “Our goal is to become the most eco-friendly outdoor manufacturer in Europe,” said Antje von Dewitz, Vaude CEO. “In order to do so we need partners such as Sympatex who are pulling in the same direction. We are determined to make long-term investments in our common future; this includes coordinating joint development rounds that apply our combined know-how to advance innovations and a comprehensive marketing concept. One can expect quite a bit for the future!”

—Regina Henkel