Global chemical and fiber specialist The Lycra Company announced the launch of various new sustainable fibers, including the first Thermolite EcoMade technologies made from 100% textile waste.  Huw Williams, director of specialty products, The Lycra Company, explained to The SPIN OFF the company’s sustainable strategy in detail.

Huw Williams, director, Specialty Products, The Lycra Company
Photo: The Lycra Company
Huw Williams, director, Specialty Products, The Lycra Company
What are the characteristics and benefits of the new Thermolite EcoMade insulation made from textile waste?
We are very pleased with this new technology, which aligns very well with the needs of the outdoor industry, which has traditionally spearheaded the industry drive to sustainable technology. The new batting non-woven technology delivers excellent warmth to weight ratios, and other characteristics required of performance insulation. However, they are made of at least 85% recycled content, typically at least 35% textile waste and more than 50% post-consumer bottle content. In other words, you can get uncompromised technical benefits, with outstanding sustainability benefits. You simply don’t have to compromise performance or sustainability attributes when using this technology.
The Lycra Company
Photo: The Lycra Company
The Lycra Company
What are its weaknesses, for instance, when it comes to lightness, flexibility or washing precautions?
There are basically no product performance compromises, as in effect, we are re-generating virgin polymer in the recycling process and then restarting a new textile cycle with what are effectively new materials. If there is a weakness at the moment it relates to garment collection and sorting, where robust systems have to be implemented by the industry, working in partnership with us and others. Our technology works with used polyester rich garments, and when reliable traceable sources of used garments become available, we will use these as source material. But until then, we are using textile-cutting waste, which is possible to collect and track with the current trade infrastructure.





In addition to Thermolite EcoMade, The Lycra Company has launched recently Coolmax Ecomade, also made from 100% textiles, all products are aimed to encourage brands and players to focus more on circularity. What was your clients’ reaction? 
The reaction has been great. It’s fair to say that probably everyone we have spoken to sees our new Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade products made with textile waste as a real innovation. What seems to get most attention is that fact that this is not a start-up or pilot plant technology, but a technology that is now broadly available at full commercial scale with all the quality and performance attributes that the industry expects. Indeed, a wide range of knit, seamless, and woven commercial fabrics are now available with the new Coolmax and Thermolite fibers, and Thermolite non-woven insulation products are now commercially available as well.

The Lycra Company
Photo: The Lycra Company
The Lycra Company
Did you start any new partnership with brands or groups in order to promote the new Thermolite EcoMade made with textile waste?
The textile-waste recycling problem is too big for any company to deal with. In this particular case, we partnered with the Itochu Corporation in Japan to help source the textile waste materials, while we worked with the non-wovens specialist companies Shinih Industries and ZiRan Nonwovens to put together this industry-leading product for insulation applications. We look forward to continuing these collaborations, and to collaborating with others in our journey to give new life to textile waste and keep it out of landfills.






Will you launch more sustainable products in the close future? Can you provide any details?
Our new polyester product range, made from 100% regenerated textile waste, comprises filament and staple products that already cover the common textile end uses. We have items designed to keep the wearer cool, signified by the Coolmax fiber brand, while lightweight warming products are available under the Thermolite brand. Filament products tend to be mostly used in true performance applications, while the staple items are designed to be blended with cellulosic and other natural fibers, enhancing performance of related fabrics and often targeting everyday comfort end uses such as T-shirts, denim, everyday socks and sleepwear. Our latest product range, introduced at Performance Days, covers non-woven items for performance insulations, used of course in the outdoor industry, but increasingly also in everyday street apparel for cold days. We intend to keep building out this range, adding different counts and dye types, but we already have key market applications covered.






Beyond our polyester products, we are also looking at ways to make Lycra fiber more circular. Although this is a longer-term development, it’s a high priority for us as Lycra fiber is used in so many types of garments.






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