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YKK Adopts Sustainable Waterproof Technology for Zippers

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.

Global trims supplier YKK is furthering its commitment to sustainability and performance with a new partnership that brings waterproof technology to zippers.

The company announced a licensing agreement with sustainable textile innovation company Green Theme Technologies (GTT), which allows it to use GTT’s water-free and non-toxic Empel water protection technology on zippers for the first time.

To achieve their waterproof qualities, conventional water-repellent treatments (DWRs) include Fluorocarbon chemistries deemed unsafe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which states that high amounts of exposure can cause issues like testicular and kidney cancer, liver damage, thyroid disease, changes to cholesterol and more. Empel achieves water repellency without the use of these chemistries, and uses “dry curing,” which coats each fiber individually to increase durability and performance.

The solution is considered to be a “game-changing technology for high-performance zippers,” and one of the best-performing dry fabric finishes in the world.

“While YKK is known for strong internal research and development, we are always looking for innovative new technologies to complement our own,” said Terry Tsukumo, vice president of YKK Global Marketing Group. “GTT’s Empel technology offers extremely durable water protection with unparalleled performance, without the use of harmful chemicals.”

The partnership directly reflects YKK’s commitments to reducing water and chemical usage through innovative technologies. Last October, the company announced YKK Sustainability Vision 2050, a five-prong strategy that addresses climate change, material resources, water resources, chemical management and human rights as well as 10 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The initiative details the ways in which YKK will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and pass along its sustainable benefits to the thousands of apparel manufacturers that use the company’s fasteners.

According to GTT’s vice president of business development Martin Flora, the partnership formed as companies throughout the textile industry double down on their sustainability strategies.

“Support from YKK comes at a critical time when major clothing brands and textile mills have to step forward to make a change for the future of the planet,” he said.

YKK has been especially vocal about gathering global support for more sustainable practices, and in April was one of 310 companies specifically calling on the U.S. for more aggressive sustainability targets to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. It signed an open letter to President Biden calling on the country to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.