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How Rudolf Group Is Transforming PET Into Textile Chemistry

From new denim constructions, weights and washes to the steps global mills are taking to reduce impact, Rivet's SS23 In Season Look Book: Denim & Trims has everything you need to know for a successful denim season.

Plastic: friend or foe? Though plastic is widely considered an environmental threat, German textile chemical company Rudolf Group developed an innovation that sees this form of waste as a “precious resource.”

Launched on Monday, Cycle-Logic is a new brand and product family within Rudolf Group’s collection of chemical solutions that transforms polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into textile chemistry, offering a new life for plastic that would otherwise end up in a landfill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), landfills received more than 27 million tons of plastic waste in 2018 alone.

“A more circular economy for plastics requires innovation and collaboration,” said Dr. Gunther Duschek, managing director at Rudolf Group. “Rudolf contributes by developing innovative technologies and products that promote the recycling of plastics.”

Through the process of chemical recycling, which breaks down plastic polymers into their basic building blocks for re-use, the chemical company transformed post-consumer, disposable and non-returnable plastics into raw materials that replace fossil resources in its manufacturing. Plastic flakes are sourced locally from plastic intended to be turned into bottles.

“Recycled PET bottles, in the form of washed flakes, can now be the raw material for the manufacturing of some of our textile auxiliaries without attacking new, virgin resources,” said Dr. Dirk Sielemann, R&D director at Rudolf Group. “We are determined to find environmentally benign ways of unpicking plastics to then design other materials.”

Cycle-Logic consists of three chemical auxiliaries for textiles, including innovations for denim washing, polyester moisture management and polymer dyeing. Rucogen Upcycle RNB is the company’s dispersing agent for indigo washing based on post-consumer, recycled PET bottles. It prevents back staining and improves denim finishing.

Feran Upcycle ICT is the group’s recycled PET solution for performance polyester textiles, which achieves fast absorption and wicking. Rucolin Upcycle SDS is an all-in-one, multi-functional, high-affinity polymer dyeing auxiliary based on PET bottles, ideal for dyeing synthetic fibers.

Rudolf Group has a history of creatively sourcing textile chemistry. In January, the company set an industry “first” by achieving Durable Water Repellent (DWR) performance through existing natural elements like plant-derived processing wastes. The technologies are marketed under Rudolf’s Bio-Logic trademark.

Looking ahead for its Cycle-Logic product, the company intends on gathering “all of the plastics polluting the environment,” including plastics that can’t be recycled as a result of their coloring or other contraindication.

“What we are presenting today is our first step,” said Alberto de Conti, head of the fashion division at Rudolf Group. “But our ambitions are much bigger.”