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Rudolf Group’s New Product Range Swaps Out Crude Oil for Renewable Materials

Rivet’s 2021 winter issue has dropped! This in-depth issue examines the steps the global denim industry is taking to minimize its impact on the environment, from implementing zero waste production and design processes to establishing greenhouse gas emissions goals aligned with the Paris Agreement.

German chemical company Rudolf Group’s Hub 1922 in Italy is demonstrating that chemical companies can be part of the climate-change solution.

The company announced this week the launch of Rudolf Hub 1922 Offuel, a range of chemical auxiliaries that it describes as the first in the industry to provide renewable alternatives to crude oil, a substance used to make plastic-based materials such as polyester.

The range consists of a combination of 11 new and existing chemical denim finishing agents that reduce companies’ reliance on the finite material. In place of crude oil—which is both non-renewable and one of the main contributors to climate change—it features raw materials sourced from botanical or biological origins, recycled waste, recycled plastics, salts, water, basic acids and alkalis.

According to the company, least 90 percent of the product series consists of alternatives to crude oil and/or components based on recycled materials. Every product within the Offuel range is compliant with Bluesign, ZDHC Gateway Level 3 and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, ensuring that its environmental and personal safety requirements are aligned with some of the top certifications in the industry.

A key product is Rucogen Upcycle RNB, a dispersing agent the company introduced in June that turns chemically recycled PET plastic waste into valuable textile chemistry used for denim washing.

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Included in petroleum-based materials and many consumer products, crude oil is a subject of contention across a number of industries that rely on the increasingly diminishing substance. In addition to its environmental threat, the substance has also skyrocketed in price, making the production of plastic—as well as shipping virtually any product—more expensive. According to research from Our World in Data, a project of the Global Change Data Lab charity in England and Wales, the world’s oil reserves are projected to empty within the next 51 years, and the natural gas supply to run out within the next 53 years.

Albert De Conti, head of marketing and fashion division at Rudolf Group, says it’s up to chemical experts to invent alternatives for these elements.

“It is very urgent for all players in the textile supply chain to start thinking of alternative, renewable raw materials. From this perspective, chemical companies that are often perceived as a problem are in fact a big part of a possible solution,” he said.

Rudolf Group’s R&D subsidiary Hub 1922 has been laser-focused on developing these types of solutions since the group’s launch in 2019. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it introduced Washless Denim, a treatment that repels spills and odor-causing bacteria that reduces the need for home washing.