Materials

First comes PrimaLoft's biodegradable insulation, next comes biodegradable fabric

The insulation and fabric brand wants to help the outdoor industry move forward in the sustainability movement.


Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

When PrimaLoft took home the overall Innovation Award at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last Thursday for its biodegradable synthetic insulation, little did we know the brand had another invention up its sleeve. On Tuesday, PrimaLoft announced its new Bio performance fabric, a 100 percent recycled fabric that’s supposed to fully degrade in landfills.

The same technology used in the insulation—polyester infused with a food source that attracts microbes at a faster rate—is used in the fabric. What’s left after the bacteria breaks down the fibers is simply water, carbon dioxide, methane, and natural organic matter—like compost. This answers the question, what’s the point of a biodegradable insulation if the outer fabric doesn’t break down too? 

PrimaLoft is currently working with brand partners who are leading in sustainability to create and test products—some of which are already using natural materials, such as hemp and wool. Brands can use biodegradable insulation and performance fabric either separately or together to make a garment that is partially or largely biodegradable.

“We don’t think about product innovation; we think about platform innovation,” PrimaLoft CEO and President Mike Joyce told SNEWS. “Think of it as a chassis on a car. You build a car around the chassis. We think of platforms and then we can drive the technology through our entire product lines.”

He continued, “We think this is an elegant solution to what I consider the end-of-life problem that we have at the end of the natural life of products. They go somewhere. What happens then?”

In a third-party accelerated landfill simulation, the material degraded more than 84 percent in 423 days, compared with less than 2 percent for regular polyester. And in an accelerated marine simulation, the material degraded more than 55 percent in 409 days. 

Biodegradable refers to any material that breaks down and decomposes in the environment. Compostable goods are similar, however, they go a step further and break down to provide the earth with nutrients. 

“Oxygen does not trigger biodegradation in this product,” Joyce said. “You can wear it and wash it and wear it as long as you want and nothing happens. The degradation starts when it gets into the environment where microbes exist—in landfills and seawater.”

In January, we should know the names of the partner brands. And by 2020, we should see the technology in hats, gloves, jackets, pants, pullovers, and other garments.