Back in the days, we were one of the first boardsports brands that started using PrimaLoft as the ultimate hi-tech alternative to down insulation and PrimaLoft quickly became an essential part of our high-end lines. PrimaLoft never saw recycling as the final step; that's why they are continually searching for the next solution. Introducing now PrimaLoft® Bio™, the first-ever 100 % recycled, biodegradable synthetic fiber, we are again the first boardsports brand who joined the PrimaLoft® Bio™ Community. PrimaLoft® Bio™ brings a new approach to sustainability without compromising PrimaLoft's industry-leading performance and comfort throughout the garment's life cycle. This offers a previously unattainable level of performance and sustainability across synthetic insulation.
The bulletproof quality of our outerwear is what we're proud of. Fundamentally, it is what allows you to ride all day, every day. Equally, we feel that responsibility is the keyword regarding nature and the playgrounds we all love. For us, responsible is more than just sustainability, a term that became over-marketed the last few years. Responsible goes more in-depth and means to think and learn before we act.
The development and growth of the eco-movement in the last years is a positive affirmation of a change in progress, and we are more than stoked about the new possibilities. Making the right steps at the right time is the approach we have chosen to guide our long-term communication with the various suppliers. The technologies are continually evolving and what was impossible a few years ago is now a fully applicable process. New scientific discoveries come at a fast pace, but not all become proven to perform as expected in time. That is why we strive to do our best in choosing tested solutions that come from renowned manufacturers. Dive into this interview to get more in-depth information and see what the newest facts are.
My questions answered Jon Minehardt, Product Development Engineer PrimaLoft and Tara Maurer, Global Vice President of Business Development Outdoor Sports & Athleisure.
Can you firstly introduce the PrimaLoft company in general, please?
Tara Maurer: PrimaLoft is an advanced material technology company based in USA with headquarter in Latham, NY. We have a global network of sales representatives across North America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. Our specialization is in the development of high-performance materials – especially insulations and performance fabrics – that provide powerful solutions to the textile industry and consumer needs. We believe our purpose is innovation that unifies people, products and the planet. With this philosophy we’ve earned the trust of more than 900 global brand partners across various industry segments, including Outdoor Sports + Athleisure, Fashion and Lifestyle, Home Furnishings and additional areas via our licensing business.
How long has PrimaLoft been here?
Tara Maurer: For more than 30 years, we’ve consistently delivered high performance products, technology and services that support the needs of our brand partners. Our journey started in the early 80s, when the United States Army Research Laboratory approached Albany International Inc., our former parent company, to develop a water-resistant synthetic alternative to down. The military needed a highly effective insulator for sleeping bags and clothing systems that would stand up to variable environmental conditions. In response, we developed and patented the first synthetic microfiber for apparel. Soon after, the first outdoor sports apparel and fashion brands adopted the innovation and commercialize products for consumers.
Can you tell us more about the portfolio of the PrimaLoft products?
Tara Maurer: Our focus is on producing innovative, high-performing and sustainable insulations and fabrics. When thinking about new developments, these three aspects carry equal weight. All of this technical innovation is aimed at one goal: to unleash the full potential of people, products and the planet.
What should we imagine behind your philosophy „Relentlessly Responsible™?
Tara Maurer: Our Relentlessly Responsible™ mission is focused on using innovation and performance to drive sustainability. This means, that we believe technological advancement does not need to come at the expense of environmental and social responsibility. Our innovative products and technologies remain on the cutting edge of material science, while also limiting our impact on the planet. In other words: Performance and sustainability live in perfect harmony – each one elevated, neither sacrificed.
Let’s move onto one of your insulations and fabrics that are featured in Horsefeathers products - PrimaLoft® Bio™. What is is?
Jon Minehardt: PrimaLoft® Bio™ is the first-ever biodegradable*, 100% recycled synthetic insulation and fabric. Made entirely from post-consumer recycled material, PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibers break down into natural elements – only when exposed to specific environments, like landfills. oceans, or wastewater. The fibers remain highly durable throughout their usable lifecycle in a garment.
PrimaLoft® Bio™ not only addresses the global issue of microplastic in the ocean but is also a sustainable solution for the inevitable end-life of a garment.
How would you describe PrimaLoft® Bio™ in three words?
Jon Minehardt: A better answer.
PrimaLoft® Bio™ is made from 100% recycled content - what materials is it composed of? Is it plastic bottles, or something else?
Jon Minehardt: Exactly, the base of PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibers are recycled plastic bottle, that are collected, cleaned, shredded, melted and transformed into high performance polyester fibers.
How does this whole process work and what is meant with “degrading into natural elements”?
Jon Minehardt: We added some special “sugar” to the recycled fibers to make them more attractive to the naturally occurring microbes that live in these specific environments. So, when PrimaLoft® Bio™ is exposed to oceanwater or wastewater through the washing of the garment or to landfills after it was disposed, these microbes break down the fibers to their natural elements, without leaving behind any harmful waste. The fibers will be transformed over time into water, CO2, methane, biomass and humus – the organic component of soil. And they will do so at a dramatically faster rate than standard polyester. In accelerated test conditions, PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibers reach near complete biodegradation in under two years, while standard polyester remains almost completely intact. Important to note: Garments using PrimaLoft® Bio™ will not break down during use, in the washing machine or in the closet – for the full long life of the garment.
How did the process of the PrimaLoft® Bio™ development and testing looked like?
Jon Minehardt: As an innovative company, we are always looking to push the boundaries of what’s possible. We never saw recycling as the final solution when it comes to creating sustainable products. It’s a great start but, it also needs to be built upon. We were looking for a way to provide a solution for polyester material that somehow made its way out of the recycling loop and ended up in the environment after they reached their final stage of life. Additional to that, we were looking for an approach that would minimize the impact of fiber-shedding while wearing and washing garments. To that end, we began researching biodegradable polymers, which took around two years. It took an additional two years to develop the first biodegradable* polyester product, and one more year to test that biodegradation process worked as we hoped. In October 2018, we were finally able to present the technology to the industry.
Why should I, as a customer, choose to have a jacket with PrimaLoft® Bio™ insulation? What are its main benefits?
Jon Minehardt: First of all, you’ll receive all of the benefits that you’ve come to expect from a product with PrimaLoft® insulation: comfortable lightweight warmth in any weather situation. The performance nor hand feel of the product has been compromised. In addition to the performance benefits, PrimaLoft® Bio™ is also made from 100% recycled polyester and is designed to return to nature. This is an important fact for two reasons: When wearing and washing garments, microfibers can be released and enter the water system. The PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibers break down to natural elements in these environments, combatting the global microplastics issue. Moreover, it provides a solution for the end of a garment’s long life. PrimaLoft® Bio™ is highly durable and we encourage everyone to wear their garments as long as possible. We believe it’s worth repairing and reusing garments as often as we can. But, at some point, there will come a time where it’s disposed of. And usually the consumer does not have control on where they end up, and garments often make their way to a landfill. Landfills are another environment where microbes break down PrimaLoft® Bio™ fibers into natural elements, without leaving behind any harmful waste.
Does PrimaLoft® Bio™ maintain the same technical performance as non-recycled insulations and fabrics?
Jon Minehardt: Absolutely. As mentioned, the fibers have the exact same high quality as our other products. It’s part of our Relentlessly Responsible philosophy, that we do not sacrifice performance for sustainability.
What are the visions for the future in terms of recycling and sustainability regarding PrimaLoft® Bio™ insulation and fabrics and company PrimaLoft in general?
Jon Minehardt: We’re continuously working on our innovation pipeline but, there are a few areas to focus on. With PrimaLoft® Bio™, we’re striving to expand this technology throughout our product line. But we are also looking into other sustainable solutions to decrease our ecological footprint. Last year, we introduced a technology called PrimaLoft® P.U.R.E.™, a proprietary manufacturing technique that reduces carbon emissions by nearly 50%. This breakthrough in our manufacturing process has the potential to have a significant impact on the carbon footprint of the textile industry.
And we will also continue to increase the amount of recycled content used in our product line. Since 2015, we saved more than 355 million plastic bottles from landfills and marine environments and transformed them into PrimaLoft® fibers. But all our efforts need to always be aligned with our expertise, combining innovation with performance and sustainability.
I hope you are as excited about this new tech as we are. See the products in our collection in which PrimaLoft® Bio™ is used. We use PrimaLoft insulation in the higher ranges of our collection, ATP and Urban mountain. We have looked under the cover of the future in PrimaLoft materials and we are already looking forward to see what else PrimaLoft will come up with.
HORSEFEATHERS PRODUCTS WITH PRIMALOFT® BIO™
*93.8% biodegradation in 646 days under ASTM D5511 conditions (landfill environment). 76.6% biodegradation in 973 days under ASTM D6691 conditions (marine/ocean environment). 12.9% biodegradation in 120 days under ASTM D5210 conditions (wastewater environment). The stated rate and extent of degradation do not mean that the product will continue to degrade.