FIBER WORLD: Sustainability In Fiber Manufacturing

Eastman recently introduced Naia™ Renew cellulosic staple fiber made using 60-percent wood pulp and 40-percent recycled waste plastics.

Innovation, collaboration and a carbon-footprint-focus abound in the polymer and fiber industries.

TW Special Report

The topic of sustainability has grown to a point that virtually every sector of manufacturing has sustainability initiatives. There is no shortage of headlines on the subject in Textile World, fiber and polymer companies included. Demand by consumers and apparel brands are driving sustainability initiatives beyond recycling to consider the entire carbon footprint. New brands are emerging and partnerships formed to gain position in the sustainability space.

Naia™ Renew Cellulosic Staple Fiber

Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman recently launched its Naia™ Renew cellulosic staple fiber for the women’s casual wear and loungewear market. According to the company the fiber is made using 60-percent wood pulp and 40-percent recycled waste plastics.

“With more consumers seeking all-day comfort and style, the need for sustainable yet soft, cocooning clothing is higher than ever,” said Carolina Sister Cohn, Eastman’s global segment market manager for fashion. “Today, shoppers looking for sustainable options are not willing to compromise on style nor on quality or durability. Naia Renew staple fiber offers sustainable comfort every day, everywhere.”

According to Eastman, the fiber is produced using wood pulp sourced from certified forests, and the recycled plastics feedstock is generated via Eastman’s patented carbon renewal technology (CRT) (See “The Recycled Plastics Challenge: Eastman’s Focus On Revolutionizing Recycling,” TW, January/February 2021). CRT is an integrated molecular recycling technology that breaks down waste plastics into basic molecular building blocks for the manufacture of new products including fibers.

Lenzing now offers Tencel™ branded modal fiber featuring Indigo Color Technology for the denim industry.

Lenzing’s VEOCEL™ Brand, Modal With Indigo

As of June 2021, Austria-based Lenzing’s Veocel lyocell fibers will be available as certified CarbonNeutral® products with a carbon footprint reduced to net-zero, according to The CarbonNeutral Protocol. This achievement was the result of Lenzing’s ambitious goals over the past few years and its collaboration with Natural Capital Partners, a corporate climate action program company. Lenzing was able to reduce its carbon emissions to net-zero with higher production efficiencies, renewable energy sources and low carbon materials, among other methods. Lenzing nonwovens customers now can reduce climate impact by using the carbon-neutral Veocel fibers in their own processes.

“At Lenzing, we are very proud of the progress we have been making to address climate change,” said Robert van de Kerkhof, member of the board of Lenzing. “The new carbon neutral Veocel Lyocell fibers will play a big role in contributing to our goal to become a net-zero company by 2050. At Lenzing, we understand that caring for the environment isn’t just good business, but good for the business.”

Lenzing also recently introduced a sustainable Tencel™ branded modal fiber featuring Indigo Color technology for the denim industry. A one-step spun-dyeing process allows Lenzing to incorporate indigo pigment directly into the fibers, which “delivers superior color fastness relative to conventional indigo dyeing whilst using substantially fewer resources.”

“By upending traditional manufacturing processes and implementing our pioneering technology along with renewable and eco-responsible materials, Tencel Modal with Indigo Color technology sets a new benchmark for indigo application and sustainability in the denim industry,” said Florian Heubrandner, vice president, Global Textiles Business at Lenzing AG.

IVL’s Deja™ Carbon Neutral PET

Bangkok-based Indorama Ventures Public Co. Ltd. (IVL) has created and expanded what it refers to as a “portfolio of sustainable solutions under its Deja™ brand.” IVL reports its Deja Carbon Neutral PET pellet is a carbon neutral PET pellet solution. The company is working to grow its Deja portfolio, which includes sustainable PET and rPET in polymer and fiber forms.

K. Agarwal, CEO of Indorama Ventures, said: “We are pleased to continually grow the Deja low carbon performance PET, rPET and polymer brand platform. Working throughout the supply chain, Deja offers sustainability by giving converters credibility, retailers accreditation, and end consumers the assurance of transparency and high performance as standard. Deja demands more from our PET and less from the environment by recycling and transforming PET into extraordinary, sustainable products across multiple applications that perform as they protect the future.”

In other IVL news, fiber producer FiberVisions and spunlaid nonwoven manufacturer Avgol — both IVL companies — are collaborating and working with scientists at Polymateria Ltd. to commercially harness “biotransformation” technology pioneered by the London-based based company. This patented technology can alter the properties of polyolefins so that they become biodegradable in a natural process. During the degredation process, the material first decomposes into a wax. Environmental bacterial action then further degrades the wax into carbon dioxide, water and biomass. Polymateria hopes the biotransformation technology will find applications in non-virgin resin recycling, as well as solving the problem of items that have not been properly recycled or disposed.

“With 32 percent of all plastic winding up in our natural environment each year we need to ensure we are working with partners who can enable scalable solutions to address what is becoming close to a 100 million tons per year problem,” said Niall Dunne, Polymateria CEO. “Indorama has a strong track record on sustainability and shares our mission and values. The trust that has emerged between our businesses has been grounded in science and a shared mission to tackle the plastic pollution pandemic at scale”.

Developing Carbon-Negative Insulating Fiber

West Sacramento, Calif.-based carbon negative materials company Origin Materials Inc. and Latham, N.Y-based PrimaLoft report they will collaborate to develop carbon-negative, insulating, high-performance fibers focused on outdoor, fashion, and lifestyle brands, as well as home goods applications such as hypoallergenic insulated bedding.

A recent press release stated that: “The collaboration builds on PrimaLoft’s ‘Relentlessly Responsible™’ mission to elevate both performance and sustainability, through innovation. The platform includes PrimaLoft® Bio™, which was developed and launched into the market in late 2018 as an effort to battle microplastics in the ocean; PrimaLoft P.U.R.E.™, which provides materials manufactured with greater than 50-percent carbon dioxide savings; and PrimaLoft’s post-consumer recycling initiative.”

“We are thrilled to partner with PrimaLoft, a leader in sustainability and advanced, engineered insulating products for apparel, outdoor gear, and home goods,” said Origin Materials co-CEO Rich Riley. “We have a shared vision for how materials can help the world transition to net zero carbon as soon as possible. Together, we can develop innovative solutions that will bring tremendous value to PrimaLoft’s customers and result in a significant reduction of carbon emissions in the apparel, outdoor, and home goods sectors.”

Macron, RadiciGroup Collaborate

Recently sportswear brand Macron and RadiciGroup, both based in Italy, joined forces announcing they will collaborate, each sharing their expertise to develop and make sustainable, technical, high-performance sportswear. The line features sport socks made using RadiciGroup’s Renycle® recycled nylon 6 yarn — a “high-value material with excellent resistance, dyeing characteristics, softness and versatility,” according to the company. RadiciGroup takes recovered production scraps, converts them back to polymers to be spun into yarns with technical characteristics comparable to yarns made using virgin materials. According to RadiciGroup, Renycle reduces carbon dioxide emissions by almost 90 percent, and generates energy and water savings of more than 87 percent and 90 percent respectively.

“A circular economy cannot be achieved by acting alone,” stressed Angelo Radici, RadiciGroup president. “As upstream players in the supply chain, we have always tried to share our knowledge of materials and deliver solutions featuring both better performance and respect for the environment. Furthermore, it is also crucial to find customers who are equally sensitive to these issues and can become strategic partners in the development of innovative and sustainable solutions. With Macron, we have worked as a team to create winning sports socks, because they are made from recycled materials, using all-Italian technologies, and are the result of a zero-kilometer, measured and traceable production and supply chain.”

A sample sockmade using Teijin Frontier’s recycled raw material
Nanofront® ultrafine polyester.

Nanofront® Ultra-Fine Polyester From Teijin

Tokyo-based Teijin Frontier Co. Ltd. has developed technology for the mass production of a new Nanofront® ultrafine polyester. According to the company, this is the first nanofiber to be made using recycled raw materials. The goal is to use the technology to produce all of its polyester fiber products from recycled raw materials, replacing filament and textiles made from petroleum-derived raw materials that are used in sportswear, functional clothing, and industrial uniforms, among other products.

Teijin Frontier reports it has solved the issues in mass producing ultrafine fibers using recycled polyester by engineering new polymer control and spinning techniques. A key step in the process is its proprietary sea-island composite fiber processing technology.

Green Fiber’s special recycled trilobal fibers may be used in filtration

Greening Up 2 Billion PET Bottles

Romania-based Green Fiber, part of the wider Green Group family, recently announced that the business is recycling more than 2 billion polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles annually into sustainable polyester staple fiber products for a variety of end-uses.

Green Fiber works in tandem with sister company Green Tech, a PET recycler in Europe, to close the circular loop by creating sustainable fibers made using recycled PET bottles into polyester staple fibers. According to the company, this system results in a 50-percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to processing virgin fiber material alternatives.

“As part of our regenerative role of both producer and recycler, we are proud to recycle over 2 billion PET bottles a year which are then transformed into sustainable fibers for an array of crucial industries,” said Alina Elena Genes, general manager of Green Fiber. “Furthermore, as we are the largest producer of 100-percent PET recycled fibers in Europe with a range of products emitting 50-percent less in carbon dioxide emissions compared to virgin fiber alternatives, we believe it’s now essential for sustainable businesses to use our fibers if they are serious in reducing their carbon footprints.”

Nilit: Breaking Down Nylon 6,6

Israel-based Nilit has introduced Sensil® BioCare nylon 6,6, which incorporates technology proven by an independent lab to break down the BioCare fibers faster than conventional nylons. Test simulations included both landfill soil and sea water to study the impact of Sensil BioCare in both environments. Nilit reports the “Sensil BioCare showed remarkable disintegration in both simulated environments during the test periods in comparison to nylon fiber that does not include the special technology.”

“We designed our new Sensil BioCare to help reduce the potential impact of synthetic fabrics on the Earth’s ecosystems,” said Ilan Melamed, NILIT general manager. “We provide consumers the same performance, comfort, and durability they expect from Sensil premium nylon along with the peace of mind that they are making a positive choice for the planet.”

According to the company, the proprietary technology incorporated in Sensil BioCare will not wear off, wash out, or interfere with other performance additives, finishes or dyes.

Brand Involvement: H&M Group, Inter IKEA Group, Stora Enso, and LSCS

Stockholm-based TreeToTextile — owned by H&M Group, Inter IKEA Group, Stora Enso, and LSCS Invest — is investing 35 million euros ($42.4 million) to construct a demonstration plant in Sweden. The move is in response to the growing global demand for sustainable fibers, and   TreeToTextile sees the plant as the critical next step in the commercialization of a new sustainable textile fiber made from renewable and sustainably sourced raw materials from the forest. The company’s regenerated cellulosic fiber technology produces biobased textile fibers with a low environmental footprint at an attractive cost, according to TreeToTextile.

“Our technology has the potential to reduce the environmental footprint of the textile industry significantly,” said TreeToTextile’s CEO Sigrid Barnekow. “With our owners’ support, innovative agendas, know-how, and size, we assess that TreeToTextile can play an important contributing part globally, in enabling the textile industry to become sustainable and circular.”

Mohawk’s SmartStrand carpet, such as the Charming Approach collection, features renewable plant-based ingredients.

Mohawk’s Eco-Friendly EverStrand

Calhoun, Ga.-based Mohawk has announced plans to refresh its EverStrand and EverStrand Soft Appeal product lines. The polyester fiber carpet is made using polyester from Mohawk’s Continuum recycling process, which has processed more than 50 billion bottles since the program began. According to the company, approximately 63 reclaimed plastic bottles go into making each square yard of EverStrand carpet.

Mohawk’s SmartStrand products incorporate some renewable plant-based ingredients. Introduced more than 15 years ago, Mohawk is working to reinvigorate this brand also. “SmartStrand is our exclusive and differentiated soft surface offering,” said Denise Silbert, vice president of marketing, soft surface. “We are renewing our focus and simplifying the message of SmartStrand to reinvigorate the collection.”

Mohawk also recently expanded its ReCover Carpet Recycling Program to include residential carpet. The paid service facilitates repurposing old carpet into new carpet, padding and other products. Since the program began, it has diverted 159 million pounds of commercial carpet from landfills, according to the company. “There is a growing need for sustainable flooring solutions because today’s homeowners are sensitive to their impact on the environment,” Silbert said. “We strive to create sustainable manufacturing processes, products and programs that will help make the world a cleaner, healthier place.”

B.I.G. Launches EqoCycle Yarns For Carpet

Belgium-based B.I.G. Yarns, a division of Beaulieu International Group, recently introduced the fully recyclable nylon 6 yarn EqoCycle. The carpet yarn is made using 75-percent recycled granulates derived from pre-consumer recycled and regenerated nylon 6, certified by Control Union for Global Recycled Standard (GRS) Certification.

“Customers have the assurance that for every 1,000 tons of EqoCycle yarn, 13,562 barrels of oil are saved and 2,700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions are reduced, compared to nylon 6 traditionally made from virgin materials,” reports B.I.G. Yarns.

“EqoCycle is a perfect example of how higher resource efficiency in our industry can promote greater circularity in our customers’ industries,” said Emmanuel Colchen, general manager, Yarns Division. “Minimizing waste, re-using materials, and saving energy and carbon emissions in production, it provides our customers and carpet brands with a new sustainable alternative that won’t compromise their end-product performance but will support their increasing focus on carbon dioxide reduction and global warming potential.”

Future Developments

It’s apparent from this quick synopsis of TW headlines that there is no shortage of sustainability news in the fiber industry. The consumer and brand demand are there, the technology is developing and many firms see these initiatives as the way forward.

May/June 2021