Quality Fabric Of The Month: Walls Of Earthtex™

Designtex — a New York City-based design and product development company specializing in textiles, wall coverings, architectural panels, shades,
screens and other commercial and residential interior products — has developed Earthtex™, its first polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free woven wall covering and the next generation of its Hardwear™ collection of upholstery and wall covering fabrics. For Designtex and its parent company, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based office environments manufacturer Steelcase Inc., Earthtex represents one step
toward their goal to remove PVC from all products by 2012 — part of an overall, ongoing strategy to make their operations and products as environmentally sustainable as possible.
According to Carol Derby, director of research and development, Designtex, the traditional Hardwear wall coverings are made using a PVC-coated polyester fill and a polyester warp. By comparison, Earthtex wall coverings are made using EarthTex™ solution-dyed 100-percent thermoplastic olefin (TPO) fill yarn, which has a polypropylene (PP) core and is coated with a blend of PP and polyethylene olefins, and an olefin warp. Because there is no contamination of one olefin by the other, Earthtex product manufacturing trimmings and waste can be recycled into new product. The end-product also has been designed to be recyclable once a reclamation program for such products is in place.

Earthtex wall coverings, made using EarthTex solution-dyed thermoplastic olefin fill yarn
and an olefin warp, are designed to be recyclable once a reclamation program is in place to receive

In addition to being PVC-free, the company notes, Earthtex also contains no heavy metals or plasticizers, is inert and therefore nontoxic in a landfill, and requires much lower temperatures for processing than PVC. With all these environmental advantages, the product offers durability comparable to that of the traditional
Hardwear wall coverings. In addition, because Earthtex is solution-dyed — the other Hardwear products are not — it offers improved cleanability, Derby said.

The standard Earthtex fabric has an acrylic backing that typically is knife-coated in a liquid state onto the fabric, which then is dried in an industrial dryer or oven. As an alternative, more environmentally sustainable solution, Derby said the company will apply a polylactide (PLA) backing when it is specified. She noted PLA is water-soluble, adding that the company plans to make PLA its standard backing as the cost comes down.

Designtex is marketing its Earthtex line especially for health care applications, but the products also are suitable for hospitality and corporate environments.

The first two Earthtex wall covering styles are being made available this fall, and other styles are planned using EarthTex in combination with other olefins.

“Interesting textures can be achieved by combining EarthTex with other olefin yarns,” Derby said, noting there also are opportunities going forward to use it in upholstery. “It’s a soft, supple yarn. A lot of work went into making it that way.”

For more information about E47, contact Bob Parker or Bill Douglas, ARC Outdoors (918)
258-8788; www.e47nano.com.

October 2005