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Modern Meadow’s Making PFAS-Free Outdoor-Minded Material With Taiwan Textile Innovator

Sixty-seven percent of consumers say sustainable materials are an essential purchasing factor, McKinsey & Company reported in its 2020 sustainability in fashion survey. Modern Meadow and Singtex partnered to meet this demand head on.

Modern Meadow, an R&D biotechnology company, announced a co-development partnership with Singtex Group, a global eco-friendly performance textiles supplier, to develop new and innovative biomaterials across various applications, starting with a sustainably produced, high-performance, waterproof membrane-based material for outdoor apparel.

“As the consumer demand for products that are environmentally friendly accelerates, this partnership is essential to deliver high-performing sustainable materials at scale to market, creating real-world impact,” said Catherine Roggero-Lovisi, CEO of Modern Meadow. “Modern Meadow and Singtex will engineer each aspect of the low-carbon product to enable outdoor apparel and gear manufacturers to replace the use of harmful chemicals, petrochemical, and animal byproducts with ethical and environmentally friendly inputs, meet more stringent consumer demands and achieve sustainability goals.”

Powered with Bio-Alloy, Modern Meadow’s proprietary protein-based technology and Singtex’s know-how as a global manufacturer of eco-friendly and functional textiles for companies including Patagonia, Adidas and The North Face, the partnership will address the unmet needs of the outdoor apparel industry, marrying performance with sustainability through a variety of product innovations, starting with this material. Free of solvents like dimethylformamide (DMF) and per- or poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), the bio-derived membrane-based material is engineered to bring the outdoor industry a sustainable solution at scale that protects human health and the environment while delivering superior product performance through waterproofing, breathability, abrasion and durability.

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“There’s a lot of things that are being banned and these are the ingredients they used to give performance to material,” Roggero-Lovisi said. “So suddenly, Modern Meadow is in a unique position to say, okay, we have technology that’s water-based and protein-based that doesn’t have all this chemistry that is toxic, and we’re scalable because we always consider, when we do the innovation, we always make sure that the input is readily available. So we have this technology that we know we can provide breathability to material that’s non-toxic.”

PFAS, also derided as “forever chemicals,” have been under growing regulatory scrutiny.

New York Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal backed a bill that prohibits the use of PFAS in apparel as intentionally added chemicals. The bill was passed by the state legislature last May, officially signed into law Dec. 30, 2022 and will take effect Dec. 31, 2023. Other states are considering actions on PFAS in garments, including Washington and California. Vermont and Massachusetts have pending legislation that could effect the use of PFAS in apparel.

“The U.S. market has all these changes happening on the state level, a lot of different legislations coming in [from] different locations,” Nicola Craig Hora, Singtex’s brand manager, said. “There’s not a uniform policy that’s coming in, which makes it kind of difficult for brands when they’re developing new products; ideally they should be able to sell those products across all territories.”

That’s where Singtex comes in, she continued, “because we can actually work with the brands and make sure that they stay up to date on the policies; we have to know how whereas brands don’t.”

“So we’re able to work with them and let them know what’s available as they start transitioning their product lines away from these harmful chemicals and create better products in the process that are more sustainable,” Craig Hora added.

Plus, Oeko-Tex has issued a general ban on using PFAS in textiles, leather and footwear for the Standard 100, Leather Standard and Eco Passport certifications as of Jan. 10. This is in coordination with the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List version 3.0, whose new Conformance Guidance 2.0. Eco Passport will comply with these requirements starting in February.

“This is only the start of Singtex’s journey of collaborative innovation with Modern Meadow,” said Singtex group chairman Jason Chen. “It’s a pleasure to start working with Modern Meadow and play to each of our unique strengths to deliver true impact in this space. Together, we are excited to work towards unveiling our new environmentally sustainable biobased product that is ready to ring in the next generation of sustainable, high-performance textiles.”

Modern Meadow’s proprietary Bio-Alloy technology application platform delivers materials with unique performance and sustainability attributes. Its distinctive mechanical and thermal properties are suitable for various applications. Modern Meadow’s technologies drop into existing infrastructures for immediate scalable adoption in textiles, beauty and other sectors.

“We think about innovation in three key parameters: mechanical performance, sustainability and scalability,” Roggero-Lovisi said. “Our objective is to resolve real world problems in the textile industry, and one of the ways we do that is through the Bio-Alloy, which is a unique [mixable] blend of plant-based protein and bio-[polyurethane] polymer, that allows us to bring a lot of different properties to technical materials—abrasion, durability, breathability.”

The New Jersey-based company, known for its contribution to the BioFabbrica Bio-Tex material that has been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 90 percent compared to traditional leather, will expand its commercial offerings to material families beyond alternative leather for greater impact.

Founded in 1989 as a producer of woven fabric, Singtex has steadily invested in innovation and R&D and is now a prominent supplier of eco-friendly and functional textiles in Taiwan. In 2007, it established a high-precision, eco-friendly dyeing and finishing R&D center enabling it to comply with environmental regulations in energy and dyes. It has also obtained numerous global environmental certifications; Bluesign, EOCA, Oeko-TexGRS and Higg Index.

“We’re very proud to partner with a company like Singtex and I think we’re going to do amazing things with them,” Roggero-Lovisi said. “What’s going to be interesting is to continue the innovation toward a territory where we don’t compromise what we offer to the customer. For us, there is no limit. We want to be as efficient and as performant as we can, so we’re not going to rest until it’s going to be 100 percent perfect.”