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New JV Helping Lycra Scale Corn-Based Fiber

The Lycra Company, a developer of innovative fiber and technology solutions for the textile and apparel industry, has entered into an agreement with Qore to enable the world’s first large-scale commercial production of bio-derived spandex using QIRA, a next generation butanediol (BDO) as one of its main ingredients.

The company said this will result in 70 percent of Lycra fiber content being derived from annually renewable feedstock. It could also potentially reduce the carbon footprint of Lycra fiber up to 44 percent versus equivalent product made from fossil-based resources, while maintaining the same high-quality performance parameters of traditional Lycra spandex fiber.

QIRA will be produced at Cargill’s biotechnology campus and corn refining operation in Eddyville, Iowa. Qore was formed through a joint venture by Cargill and HELM.

The facility, currently being built, will commence operations in 2024. The first renewable Lycra fiber made with QIRA will be produced at Lycra Company’s Tuas, Singapore, manufacturing site. Lycra Company is seeking commitments with brand and retail customers that are pursuing bio-derived solutions for their apparel.

“As part of our sustainability goals, we are committed to delivering products that support a more circular economy while helping our apparel and personal care customers reduce their footprint,” Lycra Co. CEO Julien Born said. “We are especially pleased to collaborate with Qore, a company that shares our vision for innovative, sustainable solutions. Their expertise in operating fermentation processes and understanding of the chemical value chains makes them the ideal partner to help develop a bio-derived Lycra fiber at commercial scale.”

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The first generation of renewable Lycra fiber made with QIRA will use feedstock from field corn grown by Iowa farmers and will enable a significant reduction in CO2 footprint. In addition to replacing a finite resource with an annually renewable one, another benefit for mills, brands and retailers is that there is no change in fiber performance, eliminating the need for any re-engineering of fabrics, patterns or processes, the company noted.

Equivalent performance was demonstrated in 2014 when the world’s first bio-derived spandex was launched under the Lycra brand. Lycra Co. has since been granted a patent for the process used to make renewable elastane from bio-derived BDO.

“We are proud to partner with the Lycra Company on bringing this sustainable material solution to the market,” Qore CEO Jon Veldhouse said. “This collaboration demonstrates that QIRA directly replaces conventional BDO and thus significantly improves the fiber’s sustainability profile. QIRA is an innovative platform chemical that can be used in various applications across industries.”

Headquartered in Wilmington, Del., Lycra Co. owns the consumer and trade brands Lycra and its HyFit and T400 iterations, as well as Coolmax, Thermolite, Elaspan, Supplex and Tactel. The company’s legacy stretches back to 1958 with the invention of the original Lycra spandex yarn.