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Lycra’s Sustainability Plan Brings Recycled Fibers into the Mix

The Lycra Company is moving ahead on multiple fronts to support and expand its Planet Agenda sustainability platform.

Jean Hegedus, sustainability director at Lycra, and Denise Sakuma, global director for denim and non-woven bottoms and shirting, discussed developments and motivations in this area at the Kingpins New York show Wednesday.

“We’ve committed that in our Coolmax business, we are converting by 2021 all the product line to EcoMade, made with 97 percent recycled PET,” Hegedus said. “The standard Coolmax is made from virgin polyester. In order to accommodate that change, we’ve been able to negotiate some good prices on the PET. So what will actually drive the conversion is taking the price down a little bit so it’s more similar to the virgin price.”

Coolmax fibers deliver cooling performance to garments by transporting moisture away from the body to the surface of the breathable fabric, where it evaporates quickly and helps the wearer stay dry and comfortable to optimize performance. Sakuma noted the fiber is used as an ingredient in several product areas, including denim.

The company’s Thermolite fiber, an insulation that delivers lightweight warmth, is also being coverted similarly to EcoMade recycled content, Hegedus said.

Earlier in the week, the company announced that its new Lycra EcoMade fibers have been certified to the Global Recycled Standard. Lycra EcoMade fiber is the company’s first branded spandex that is made with pre-consumer recycled materials.

The EcoMade fiber offers the same lasting comfort, fit and freedom of movement as the original Lycra, but is made partly with fiber waste collected at the company’s manufacturing sites and blended with virgin polymer at specific concentrations. This reduces waste and puts it back into production.

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“This is sort of a start,” Hegedus said. “Our long-term goal is to get to a Lycra fiber made with post-consumer content.”

Sakuma noted that product sustainability is one of three pillars of Planet Agenda, in addition to manufacturing excellence and corporate responsibility. This also includes Lycra T400 EcoMade fiber made from 50 percent recycled PET and 18 percent plant-based materials, and technologies geared toward reducing waste, extending garment life and reducing or eliminating chemical usage.

“Our research with Refinery 29, conducted with 500 females in North America, shows that 82 percent said sustainability is one of the top three issues in the world today and they are doing things to be more sustainable,” Hegedus said. “What I thought was most interesting was that more than 50 percent of them want things to reduce their textile waste.”

Sakuma noted that Lycra’s commitment to sustainability also goes beyond what it is doing as a company.

“For us, because we’re fiber manufacturers, we work along the value chain and it’s really about collaboration,” she said. “We have to have all aspects of the industry to think along the same lines so the investments you make are worthwhile.”