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PrimaLoft Polyester Fibers Are Now Deemed Circular

PrimaLoft Bio fibers–made from recycled and biodegradble materials–have quickly gone from market introduction and brand uptake to bio certification.

PrimaLoft based in Latham. N.Y., said Monday that third-party testing has proven that PrimaLoft Bio fibers are capable of being chemically recycled with a 95 percent yield rate, making them renewable in a circular economy.

“The intention of PrimaLoft Bio was always to address the eventual end of life of a garment in an impactful way, while finding a solution for the industrywide microplastics issue,” PrimaLoft president and CEO Mike Joyce said. “Biodegradability is an end of life solution that works in harmony with the circularity model. With the ability to renew our fibers, we are changing the conversation to circularity. Circular economies are the next frontier in sustainability and we have proven our capabilities in this space.”

The manufacturing process of PrimaLoft Bio, introduced in October, breaks down polyester to its basic components so it can be rejuvenated into a new high-performance material without compromising its original integrity. The third-party testing showed that PrimaLoft Bio fibers can be chemically recycled with a 95 percent yield rate. After chemical recycling, PrimaLoft Bio fibers can be reused to produce new insulation or fabric fibers, while maintaining the same level of performance, the company said.

Circularity, or a circular economy, is an economic system aimed at minimizing waste and recapturing usable resources to be utilized within the system. This eliminates the need to introduce new natural resources, creating a closed loop.

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The company noted that a circular economy is a more sustainable alternative to a traditional linear economy, which relies on the “take, make, dispose” model of utilizing resources.

“More than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced worldwide since 1950 and less than 10 percent of those plastics have actually been recycled,” Joyce said, referencing a research article from Science Advances magazine. “Those numbers are alarming and PrimaLoft is working on solutions to reduce the use of oil-based virgin polyester fibers. To that end, we have been using recycled polyester fibers sourced from plastic bottles in our products since 2007.”

However, he noted that this traditional mechanical recycling process cannot be used repeatedly without eventually sacrificing the performance characteristics of the polyester and continuing to use additional natural resources.

“That’s why PrimaLoft searched for new ways to close the system,” Joyce said.

PrimaLoft Bio fibers are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled material and break down when exposed to certain environments, such as a landfills or the ocean. PrimaLoft has enhanced the fibers to be more attractive to the naturally occurring microbes found in these environments so that they eat away at the fibers at a faster rate, returning the fabric or insulation to natural elements.

The fibers only biodegrade when exposed to these microbes, meaning the insulation or fabric remains highly durable throughout its usable life cycle in a garment, the company explained. Biodegradable fibers also provide a solution for the potential shedding of fibers into wastewater streams throughout a garment’s usable life, as well as for garments that do end up in landfill or ocean water environments.

The ASTM tests found 86.1 percent biodegradation of PrimaLoft Bio fibers in 499 days in landfills and 57.4 percent biodegradation in 486 days in marine environments.

PrimaLoft fibers are used in outdoor and fashion brands, home furnishings, work wear, hunting and military applications. In January, the company announced that L.L. Bean, Vaude, Helly Hansen and Norrona would bring PrimLoft Bio to market in 2020.