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July 14 2023

How on Earth are our membranes sustainable?

We very often get this question, “how are you sustainable if your current membranes are oil-based?” Let’s dive into that.

BUT FIRST, CONTEXT.

When a garment is waterproof and breathable it means that it contains a membrane between the face fabric and the lining. This thin layer, that no one sees, is what makes your garment waterproof and breathable (high-performant). In essence, it means that your clothes will keep you dry no matter what.

Currently, all membrane manufacturers rely on oil-based polymers to produce these membranes based on their technologies. Even if there are promising advancements using bio-based polymers, the technology is not quite there yet. But let’s come back to this in a bit.

“Oil-based” refers to polymers made from fossil fuels, which are primarily hydrocarbons derived from the ground. Therefore, the name “Oil-based polymers” reflects the origin of the raw materials.

On the other hand, “bio-based” refers to biological products, renewable agricultural materials, or forestry materials. Contrary to the general belief, using bio-based polymers is no easy task. Unlike picking cherries from a tree, these raw materials must undergo intensive chemical processes to become polymers. Rarely are bio-based materials 100% from plants; values usually range between 20% and 80%, which is already amazing but not fully oil-free.

All in all, determining a product’s sustainability goes beyond its raw material source; It requires considering the entire lifecycle, including extraction, production, use, and end-of-life management.

TOXIC CHEMICALS AND THE IMPACT OF SOLVENTS

To the use of oil-based polymers, most manufacturers also incorporate highly environmentally damaging chemicals such as PFCs/PFAS for their waterproof properties. These chemicals shouldn’t have a place in consumer goods and increasingly, governments worldwide are also recognizing this, leading to their prohibition in various regions.

Similarly, many manufacturers still use toxic solvents that not only have a significant negative effect on the carbon footprint of membranes but also working with these solvents in factories without strict safety measures leads to severe health problems.

OUR INTRINSIC COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY

We were born as an alternative to the existing options in the market, that’s why our membranes don’t contain neither PFAS/PFCs nor toxic solvents. That being said, we are aware that sustainability is a complex road and continuous improvement is a must.

WHAT ELSE ARE WE BRINGING TO THE TABLE?
  • We are developing a highly bio-based membrane that is predominantly composed of renewable materials.
  • Our technology allows us to work with polymers that find wide application in the textile industry. We aim to create mono-material laminates, wherein textiles, glue, and membranes all consist of the same polymer. This will ease circularity through efficient recycling processes.
  • Our current oil-based membranes are also recyclable. Both dimpora membranes are chemically recyclable even in the laminate construction without additional separation of the layers. The trials provided good yields of valuable raw materials for new polymeric materials. Taking into account the use phase of an outdoor sports garment (approx. 5 years), we strongly believe that the chemical recycling processes will be at scale once the commercial products with dimpora membrane are coming to their end-of-life. Therefore, recyclable multi-layer textiles will be a breakthrough for the whole industry.

While the question of sustainability and oil-based materials is fair, it requires a detailed explanation and a context (like most things). Very rarely things are either black or white. Sustainability might be a bumpy road that requires a holistic approach and an unprecedented collaboration of all the parties implied, from manufacturers to brands to consumers, but it’s absolutely worth it and we’re here for it. Are you?