May 13, 2021

How Lycra and Itochu want to work on circularity

3 min read

The Lycra Company, a global specialist in fiber and textile solutions, is launching its first performance offerings made from 100% textile waste. The new Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade are the result of a strategic collaboration between The Lycra Company and Itochu Corporation, a general trading company with strength in consumer-related sectors, including the textile business.

Arnaud Ruffin, The Lycra Company’s director of brands and retail for Europe, explained the details of the launch.

What are the technical benefits from offering Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade fibers integrating recycled textile waste?
Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade offer the same cooling and warming performance solutions expected from Coolmax and Thermolite fibers, just now made with 100% textile waste, with quality comparable to fibers made from virgin polymer.

What textile waste is used to obtain the new fibers, and where does it come from?
It consists of cutting scraps from garment manufacturers that would otherwise go to landfill, incineration or other low-grade uses.

Arnaud Ruffin, The Lycra Company’s director of brands and retail for Europe

Arnaud Ruffin, The Lycra Company’s director of brands and retail for Europe

As The Lycra Company is already offering Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade fibers made with recycled PET, what are the differences with the newly launched fibers? Could The Lycra Company stop offering the same fibers made with recycled PET in the future?
We will continue to offer those fibers made with recycled PET. Both technologies deliver similar performance, and fabrics made with them pass our stringent Coolmax and Thermolite brand standards. The difference is the problem they are addressing: the one with PET as feedstock addresses waste from the beverage industry, and the new one, from textile waste. The new product from textile waste allows brands and retailers to develop performance products for the circular economy.

Can the new fibers be used for any kind of textiles like denim, woven fabrics, knitwear, jersey, paddings and similar materials? Can fabrics and materials made with them also withstand eventual treatments or agings? Could they be mixed with other natural or artificial fibers?
These new fibers are suitable for circular knitting, weaving, socks, seamless and insulation batting applications. They are available in staple and filament forms, and can be blended with other natural and synthetic fibers to enhance their performance. They are easy to use and behave and can be handled as normal polyester fibers in textile manufacturing processes.

Are there any limitations or weaknesses in the use of the new fibers? 
As the textile waste is depolymerized and then rebuilt into new fibers, properties are comparable with virgin polyester products.

The Lycra Company’s Coolmax EcoMade fiber made with 100% textile waste used for denim

The Lycra Company’s Coolmax EcoMade fiber made with 100% textile waste used for denim

Could fabrics using the new generation of Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade fibers eventually be recycled at the end of their lives?
Yes, they could be recycled using exactly the same process. Polyester rich items would be needed to make the process yields economic at this stage.
The new Coolmax and Thermolite products lay the groundwork for a more circular system. Our plan is to move to post-consumer waste as soon as a reliable supply of polyester rich post-consumer waste can be secured local to the manufacturing facility in China.

Are these new fibers carrying any certification? If so, which ones? Can the consumer or the brand using these fibers be informed about the kind of scraps used for the new fibers?
The fibers are in the process of being certified for recycled content and environmental safety. We expect to have certifications by around May.

When will these fibers arrive in the market?
Fibers and yarns are being stocked now, and are available at commercial scale. The first fabrics will likely be from China mills in the May-June timeframe, with fabrics from European mills following in July-August.

Will Itochu follow sales and distribution of these fibers in specific markets or are they simply supplying technology or raw material?
Itochu will be responsible for the sales and distribution in Japan only. In all other countries, these new products can be purchased from The Lycra Company.

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