Corn Into Gold


R
enewable, biodegradable alternatives to petrochemical-based fibers have provided
Interface Fabrics Inc., a division of Atlanta-based Interface Inc., with new possibilities in its
quest to make its operation and products as environmentally sustainable as possible. At NeoCon®
2004, held recently in Chicago, the commercial fabrics manufacturer introduced panel fabrics made
with Minnetonka, Minn.-based Cargill Dow LLC’s Ingeo™ bio-based fiber — the first such commercial
fabrics available.

Ingeo fiber is processed from biodegradable polylactide (PLA) polymer resin derived from
fermented sugars of corn, a 100-percent annually renewable resource. PLA requires 20- to 50-percent
less fossil fuel and generates 15- to 60-percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions in its production
than do petrochemical-based fibers such as polyester. It is produced without using antimony, a
heavy metal used in the production of polyester bottles — the source for recycled polyester fiber.
Ingeo also offers performance benefits comparable to and even exceeding those of polyester. For
example, it is naturally stain-resistant; does not retain odors; and exhibits superior
fire-retardant properties, emitting non-toxic smoke and low levels of heat when burned.

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Herman Miller’s Kira panel fabrics, developed in partnership with Interface Fabrics, won a
Best of NeoCon® 2004 Gold award.
 

Interface Fabrics offers its
bio-based textiles under the Terratex® brand, which also features fabrics made from recycled
polyester and “green” wool. At NeoCon, the company launched open-line Bungee and Propeller PLA
panel fabric collections through Allsteel Inc., a Muscatine, Iowa-based provider of workplace
solutions. It also partnered with office solutions provider Herman Miller Inc., Zeeland, Mich., to
introduce Kira, a proprietary line of PLA panel fabrics that won the Best of NeoCon 2004 Gold award
in the Textiles: Panel category.

Paul Bennotti, director of marketing strategy, Interface Fabrics, said response to the
fabrics was “phenomenal. The interest was huge, and customers were fascinated by the
corn-into-fabric story.” He said commercial interest in green building and interior products has
grown significantly thanks to standards such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Bennotti said the new fabrics were more than three years in the making, from developing a
suitable fiber size and the desired aesthetics to getting to the right price point. They are the
first Terratex fabrics to conform to a new Chemical and Dye Protocol, ensuring that the finishing
and dyeing chemicals used are the most eco-friendly materials available. They also are produced
using wind energy under the company’s Green-e certified program. Under the ReSKU™ reclamation
program, Interface Fabrics is developing a formal reclamation and composting protocol to be used
with its bio-based fabrics.

Herman Miller also is developing a composting program for PLA fabric scrap. “We know the
fabric composts completely within 72 hours, and that it will act as a plant nutrient,” explained
Barbara Tasker, senior product manager, Herman Miller. A mixture of fabric, sawdust and organic
material is heated to 140°F. The composted material then can be used to fertilize crops, such as
corn.



For more information about Terratex® bio-based fabrics, contact Paul Bennotti
paul.bennotti@interfacefabrics.com, or Interface Fabrics (207) 876-3331.



August 2004

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