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PrimaLoft introduces the world's first biodegradable synthetic insulation

The technology is expected to be in consumers' hands by fall 2020.

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Imagine if at the end of a jacket’s life, instead of throwing it away or donating it, you could plant it right in your garden alongside your vegetables and flowers.

Today, PrimaLoft introduced a new type of synthetic insulation based off of that thinking. The new material is called PrimaLoft Bio and it’s the first synthetic insulation made from 100 percent recycled, biodegradable fibers. 

Studies show that the textile industry is the second dirtiest industry behind oil. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that the average American throws away 70 pounds of clothing per year. And the outdoor industry has recently shone a spotlight on the problem of microplastics polluting our natural water resources.

“At the end of the day, what happens to a jacket when it his the grave?” PrimaLoft President and CEO Mike Joyce said in a visit with SNEWS last week. He said that the idea was born in 2014 after a PrimaLoft product manager during a weekly research and development meeting asked, “Why can’t we just make a jacket insulation that we can bury in the backyard?”

Since then, PrimaLoft scientists and engineers have been working on a fiber that breaks down in the ground, but will still perform, look, and feel the same. When asked if a user can tell the difference between a Bio jacket and non-Bio jacket, Joyce said no—the insulation remains highly durable throughout its usable life cycle in a garment.

The fibers are still synthetic—100 percent post-consumer recycled materials—but a natural additive (think sugar, Joyce said) attracts microbes to consume it at a faster rate. Therefore, the fiber is expected to break down faster in landfills and oceans.

PrimaLoft Bio infographic

In accelerated test conditions simulating a landfill, PrimaLoft says, the Bio fibers reached near complete biodegradation in 394 days (75.9 percent)—faster than polyester’s natural degradation. Water, methane, carbon dioxide and biomass (expired microorganisms, organic waste) were left over.

To date, PrimaLoft has kept 84.7 million plastic bottles from landfills to turn them into insulation. By 2020, 90 percent of PrimaLoft’s insulation products will have at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled content.

“We want our consumers to be able to reuse and recycle their garments for many years,” Joyce said in the official press release. “Yet, we know that products have a life cycle and are eventually disposed of. PrimaLoft Bio goes hand in hand with sustainability, by providing a solution for the end of a garment’s life cycle. We are the first to address this challenge in the synthetic insulation category.”

The brands adopting this technology remain a secret. But retailers can expect to be selling PrimaLoft Bio garments by fall 2020.

GoLite has unearthed a solution to the polybag problem: bags made from a biodegradable cellulose-based resin.