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May 25 2023

The key to achieve mono materiality in performance wear

WHAT EXACTLY IS MONO-MATERIALITY?

It’s all about designing and manufacturing products using just one type of material. More particularly for garments or textiles, traditionally, they have been composed of multiple materials like cotton blends, synthetic fibers, and metal components, making them incredibly difficult or even impossible to recycle. By embracing a mono-material approach, the textile industry can revolutionize its production processes, minimize waste by facilitating recycling, and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

HOW MONO-MATERIALITY COULD SAVE THE DAY?
ENHANCED RECYCLABILITY

Mono material textiles are made from a single material, hence they don’t require complex separation processes (which don’t even exist yet, or are not financially viable solutions). This means that higher recycling rates can be achieved, reducing the amount of waste that ends up languishing in landfills or being incinerated. It’s all about creating closed-loop recycling systems that minimize the industry’s environmental impact.

RESOURCE CONSERVATION

By focusing on optimizing production processes for a single material, manufacturers can reduce raw material loss and maximize resource utilization. This means we extract fewer raw materials, preserving precious resources for future generations. A win-win situation for both the industry and the planet.

STREAMLINED SUPPLY CHAINS. 

Reducing the number of suppliers and minimizing logistical complexities simplifies everything. The result? Improved transparency and traceability, empowering companies and consumers to make more informed choices about the environmental and social impacts of their textile purchases.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY?

Functional outdoor apparel, such as jackets, often incorporate membranes to provide essential performance features like waterproofing, breathability, and wind resistance. 
These membrane-based garments consist of multiple layers, including, most of the time, an outer shell, a membrane layer, and an inner lining plus special bonding techniques (adhesives, tapes, or heat-sealing methods) to prevent water penetration through the seams.

Each of these layers serves a specific purpose, but they are also made out of different materials in order to keep the performance levels. Now imagine, if just a regular T-shirt presents important recycling difficulties, functional apparel is the “end boss”. Achieving a closed-loop recycling system for mono-material garments with membranes requires innovative recycling technologies and infrastructure.

Current available options often fall short in replicating the performance attributes of traditional membranes. Advancements in material science and manufacturing processes are necessary to overcome these limitations.

THE OUTLOOK

Continual research and development efforts are crucial to discovering alternative mono-material options. This includes exploring new polymer technologies and eco-friendly coatings.

Designing garments with easier disassembly in mind can also facilitate recycling. 

Collaboration between outdoor brands, material suppliers, and recycling facilities is essential for sharing expertise and finding innovative solutions. Collective efforts are key.

Educating consumers about the environmental impact of functional garments and the challenges surrounding mono-materiality can foster awareness and drive demand for sustainable alternatives. Encouraging responsible consumption and the proper disposal or recycling of outdoor apparel is vital. Furthermore, accepting that until material science brings it to the next level, mono-materiality implies that fabrics will have fewer functionalities. Usually achieved by mixing different materials which provide different attributes. (i.e. elastane for stretch)

ARE THERE ANY SOLUTIONS ALREADY?

At dimpora, we are striving to provide laminates for our customers that would allow easy recycling for post-industrial or post-consumer waste. As we have a unique platform technology, we are sourcing polymers already made into fabrics to produce our waterproof and breathable membranes. 

This can be a real challenge as the “touch & feel” of polymeric materials working well to make fibers does not necessarily fit the purpose of a functional membrane (too brittle and not soft enough). However, our R&D team is working hard to find the perfect materials which then show high performance and great hand feel.

With membranes and fabric made out of the same material, it greatly simplifies the recycling prospect. The cherry on the cake will be to find the adhesive out of the same materials. Hence the importance of collaborative work with all stakeholders.