Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
One way to reduce microplastic pollution? Stop synthetic fibers from shedding in the first place. Polartec is on the case.
Polartec Power Air fiber technology is designed to shed at least five times less than comparable premium fabrics. And less shedding means fewer polyester fibers breaking loose during the wash cycle, a phenomenon that’s been linked to ocean pollution. The Power Air platform has been shown to minimize this risk by wrapping lofted fibers with a multilayer, continuous yarn, without sacrificing the warmth and insulation provided by a similar-weight fabric.
David Karstad, Polartec marketing and creative director, said Polartec’s Power Air technology is emblematic of the ecologically minded practices that have always driven the company. “We’re constantly looking at new ways to make our products more sustainable,” Karstad said. “Power Air is the culmination of a multi-year development consisting of thousands of work hours and dozens of iterations.”
Insulation that effectively regulates core body temperature has traditionally been achieved via lofted or high-pile knit structures that hold warm air, Karstad explained, which results in the shedding that pollutes the wastewater stream. “The ‘a-ha’ moment came when our engineers had the idea to encapsulate the lofted fiber inside the ‘bubble wrap’ as a way to mitigate fiber shedding,” Karstad said. “What they created is an entirely new construction platform.”
Polartec says there are no similar solutions on the market, and it is taking advantage of that opportunity. Karstad said the technology is scalable and to expect more iterations in addition to the two styles currently available with Power Air.
Polartec has also made a commitment to reaching 100 percent biodegradability across its product line, including the first recycled and biodegradable fleece, knits, insulation fills and breathable waterproof fabrics. “We’ve spent a lot of time 'eco-engineering' polyesters in fabrics,” Karstad said. He anticipates the company will reach its biodegradability goals in all its products, including Power Air. “There are, of course, technical challenges, but nothing that can’t be overcome,” he said.
In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?
"The fact that the fashion industry has begun to recognize the social need and the consumer desire for sustainable options."