The outdoor industry is an enormous user of polyester, with the majority of outer layer garments (jackets and trousers) being made from 100% polyester or polyester blends, and the fibre also being found in sizeable quantities in base and insulation layers, as well as footwear and accessories (gloves, rucksacks, tents etc). The fibre is used as it possesses a number of performance characteristics that are perfectly suited to outdoor applications and are not readily available from other fibres, namely its lightweight characteristics, and natural hydrophobic properties which can be exploited to perform a variety of favourable functions eg. quick drying, moisture management etc.
However, its dependence on natural resources for virgin polyester production, its inability to biodegrade, and a lack of suitable end of life options for this fibre, are quickly turning what can be a highly suitable functional fibre, into an enemy of the planet.
The European Outdoor Group (EOG), an industry association that represents outdoor brands, retailers and technology brands, decided to become involved in the DEMETO project as the technology promises to offer a number of advantages over existing recycling technologies that could facilitate brands attempts to shift towards using more recycled fibres, and develop systems to deal with post-consumer waste in order to be a part of a circular economy.
The biggest appeal of this technology for the outdoor market is its ability to process mixed fibre blends and separate waste. This is because unlike fashion, the outdoor industry has a tendency to use functional coatings, laminates and membranes within its polyester garments, which can make other mechanical and chemical recycling methods completely unsuitable.
Since announcing involvement in the project, the EOG has organised a number of events with its members discussing the technology and its potential and has received a number of enquiries from EOG members, as well as other stakeholders, who are really interested in the technology and how soon it will be available, so that they can find ways to integrate the technology it into their supply chains.