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Patagonia’s New Circularity Deal Says Plastic Bottles Aren’t the Solution

Carbios, a developer of enzymatic solutions dedicated to the end-of-life of plastic and textile polymers, has signed an agreement with On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon to develop solutions that will enhance the recyclability and circularity of their products.

An important element of the two-year deal will be to speed up the introduction of Carbios’ biorecycling technology. Carbios and the four companies will also research how products can be recycled, develop solutions to take-back worn polyester items, including sorting and dismantling technologies, and gather data on fiber-to-fiber recycling and circularity models.

Carbios noted that the challenge the four brands share is that their sustainable development goals can only partially be met by conventional recycling technologies that mainly target bottle-to-fiber recycling. Future regulations will require more circularity in packaging and textiles, yet the market consensus is that there will soon be a shortage of PET bottles, as they will be used for circular production methods in the food and beverage industry.

“This consortium model has proved to be very efficient based on the success of the milestones previously achieved in packaging,” Emmanuel Ladent, CEO of Carbios, said. “We are very pleased to partner with these prestigious brands, On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon. Our common goal is to contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry by offering an industrial solution to recycle polyester fibers and help our partners to meet their sustainable development goals.”

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Carbios’ innovative process constitutes a technological breakthrough for the recycling of polyester (PET) fibers widely used in apparel, footwear and sportswear, on their own or together with other fibers. The biorecycling process uses an enzyme capable of selectively extracting the polyester, recovering it to recreate a virgin fiber. This technology makes it possible to recover the PET polyester present in all textile waste that cannot be recycled using traditional technologies.

PET plastics and fibers are used to make everyday consumer goods such as bottles, packaging and textiles. Today, most PET is produced from fossil resources, then used and discarded according to a wasteful linear model, Carbios said. By creating a circular economy from used plastics and fibers, Carbios’ biorecycling technology offers a sustainable and more responsible solution.

“We are excited to partner with Carbios and the textile consortium to work collaboratively to reduce waste produced by textiles,” Natalie Banakis, materials innovation engineer at Patagonia, said. “The textile waste problem is bigger than one company or solution and Patagonia is excited to be working in a new format to solve this problem.”

Howard Williams, director of global innovation for apparel and accessories at Puma, said, as part of the company’s “Forever Better” sustainability strategy, its aims to use 75 percent recycled polyester in apparel and accessories by 2025. The partnership with Carbios and its innovative biorecycling methods “offer a promising approach to reach our goals and make our industry as a whole more circular,” Williams said.

Adrianne Gilbride, senior sustainability manager at On, noted that fiber-to-fiber recycling is a key building block in closing the loop within the textile and footwear industry.

“On is committed to becoming fully circular before the end of the decade,” Gilbride said. “Our partnership with Carbios and the other consortium members is an important step toward enabling the industry to game-changing circular technologies at scale.”

Olivier Mouzin, footwear sustainability manager at Salomon, said the company’s goal in joining the consortium is to bring awareness to the end-of-life of textiles, with the ambition of establishing true circularity within the textile industry.

“At Salomon, we provide advanced sports solutions for all the outdoor participants, from the elite to the enthusiasts,” Mouzin said. “Therefore, it is a natural decision for us to join this consortium made up of clothing and footwear companies, as well as Carbios, to form a new organization for advancing textile recycling that will help create a sustainable future for all outdoor players.”

“The companies in the consortium aim to do this by discovering ways to recycle fibers from one product into another,” he added. “Partnering with Carbios–a green chemistry leader offering a bio-recycling process that recycles apparel and footwear materials into thread for new products–better enables us to accomplish this goal.”