Setting New Standards for Material Sustainability

The International Apparel Federation (IAF) will hold workshops across three continents on polyurethane (PU) coating in November 2014, titled “Setting New Standards for Material Sustainability”.  Hosted in November of this year by TC2 in New York, China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Textile (CCCT) in Shanghai, and by the IAF in collaboration with a partner in Europe, the workshops will bring together C-suite executives and heads of product design, sustainability and procurement from brands and manufacturers to discuss emerging concerns around solvent use in PU coating processes. The workshops will also explore new models of supply chain collaboration that address these concerns.

PU technology is used to enhance and transform many of the fabrics that surround us. Every year, around seven billion pairs of shoes, two billion bags and one billion garments are produced with PU leather and other PU coated fabrics.  Globally, more than four billion square meters of PU synthetic leather are manufactured per year to meet the fast growing demand.

At the moment, the majority of PU leather and PU coated fabrics in the market are produced by a solvent-based coating technology, which relies heavily on the solvent, N,N-dimethylformamide (DMF).  Take PU leather for example, its manufacture involves putting a layer of PU on the top and underside of a woven or non-woven fabric.  When using solvent-based coating technology, DMF is used in the coating process.  Subsequently, large amounts of water and energy are needed to rinse the DMF off and dry the coated fabric. This results in considerable discharge of DMF and organic wastes.  DMF is placed on the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern and the intensive use of energy and water required in coating with DMF is also putting a heavy strain on local ecosystems.

Recently, Bayer MaterialScience introduced a new solution for this problem through INSQIN®, an integrated package of waterborne PU coating technology, material co-development and a certified manufacturer partner program for PU coated fabrics.  An alternative to solvent-based coating, waterborne PU technology eliminates occupational exposure to DMF, and consumes up to 95% less water and 50% less energy.

IAF is working intensively with one of its associate members through its global network for a very good reason. It wants to address in practice a broader problem that is now often preventing our industry from quick reductions in environmental impact. Even if the technology is available, the apparel industry is so complex and multi layered that the uptake of existing solutions is often slow. IAF wants to visibly promote real solutions to the most pressing environmental problems and feels that this PU coating is an excellent case in point that deserves to be discussed on three continents.

bayer

So, at the three IAF workshops, Nicholas Smith, global head of textile coatings from Bayer MaterialScience, and third party industry experts will not only discuss technological solutions. They will also exchange views on new ways of collaboration between material science, manufacturing and brands, such that product and manufacturing innovation can occur concurrently with improvements in the sustainability of PU coated products.

For more information and to pre register please contact: broeksma@iafnet.com

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