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Polartec Eco-Engineering Aims to Set New Standard for Sustainable Textiles

Polartec is going all in on sustainability.

The Andover, Mass.-based textile provider is introducing an “Eco-Engineering” initiative that will use recycled and biodegradable materials across its entire product line in conjunction with Unifi Inc. and Intrinsic Advanced Materials.

The collaboration combines CiCLO technology with Unifi’s innovative yarn products to promote biodegradation of polyester and nylon, and applications in polyurethane, and reduce the impact on sea water and landfill conditions. CiCLO technology allows polyester to biodegrade in marine environments, wastewater treatment plants and landfill conditions at rates similar to natural fibers like wool.

Polartec said the goal is to create the world’s first fully recycled and biodegradable fleeces and breathable waterproof membranes, in addition to other knits and insulation fills.

“By collaborating with the best in the business, Polartec is committing to the pursuit of a future where everything is eco-engineered to use recycled inputs and to be biodegradable,” Polartec CEO Gary Smith said. “This is the culmination of over 25 years of Polartec investment and innovation.”

Polartec is said to have created the first performance fabrics made from post-consumer recycled plastics in 1993, and it began collaborating with Unifi, which helped pioneer the production of polyester fibers from plastic water bottles, in 2006.

The collaboration is an extension of Polartec Eco-Engineering, a process that deploys recycled inputs, advanced production techniques, logistical efficiency, and rigorous testing and certifications to create an innovation pipeline devoted to producing sustainable fabrics with strong performance characteristics. This includes Oeko-Tex and Bluesign certifications across all Polartec facilities worldwide.

The Polartec Eco-Engineering effort aims to set a new, higher “triple bottom line” standard for the textile industry that incorporates fully recycled inputs, fully recyclable fabrics and complete biodegradability.

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“We are proud to be a part of progressive collaborations that seek to find solutions, through textile innovation, for some of the world’s most significant challenges,” Unifi CEO Kevin Hall said. “By working with leaders from our industry, we strive to create innovative products that are synergistic with key technologies like recycling. We look forward to this journey toward developing biodegradable materials and for more industry partners to join the sustainable pathway.”

Unifi has recycled more than 14 billion plastic bottles to create its Repreve performance polyester and nylon fibers. The Greensboro, N.C.-based company’s Profiber technologies offer increased performance, comfort and style benefits in a range of fiber brands.

Andrea Ferris, CEO at Intrinsic Advanced Materials, said, “After years of R&D to create a solution for biodegradability, we’re thrilled to partner with the inventor of technical fleece and leader in performance knits to bring CiCLO to market as part of Polartec Eco-Engineering.”

Intrinsic Advanced Materials is a joint venture between Parkdale Advanced Materials and Intrinsic Textiles Group. Spinning out from a uniforms company, Intrinsic Textiles has conducted extensive research and development and testing on CiCLO for several years to create a sustainable solution for synthetics that meets demanding durability requirements.