Spotlight On: UPM Biochemicals

Partnership will challenge brands to exit fossil-based materials, accelerating the sustainable transformation of the textile industry.

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UPM Biochemicals and VAUDE, a sustainable and innovative supplier of outdoor apparel, will produce outerwear made with bio-based chemicals and demonstrate that the textile industry can start the shift towards renewable materials today.

 

UPM recognises the acute challenge faced by the textile and footwear industry to find sustainable solutions for polyester and polyurethane production. Approximately 60% of all materials used by the fashion industry (European Environment Agency, 2019) are made from fossil-based polymers. The company is developing new, climate-neutral materials produced from sustainably sourced forest biomass that will replace fossil-based materials.

In close collaboration, UPM and VAUDE will produce the first ever fleece jacket made from wood-based polyester. A small step with big impact as it will help close the gap between recycled fibres and sustainable virgin fibres and take performance fashion beyond fossils.

 

The resin used to make polyester contains 30% monoethylene glycol (MEG) which is traditionally sourced from oil. In UPM and VAUDE´s process this ingredient will be entirely replaced with a new bio-monoethylene glycol (bioMEG), UPM’s BioPura™. BioPura™ is a drop-in solution that can be easily implemented into existing polyester manufacturing because it is a molecular like-for-like substitute for its fossil-based counterpart.

In this case, Indorama Ventures, one of the world’s leading chemical companies, will polymerize and spin a polyester yarn containing UPM’s BioPuraTM BioMEG at its German site in Guben. Pontetorto, a leading textile manufacturer located in Prato, Italy, will then process this yarn into a novel, bio-based polyester fabric which VAUDE will use to produce the final garment.

 

Against a background of commercially immature closed loop textile-to-textile recycling processes, the choice of feedstock is the biggest opportunity to improve the environmental performance of polyester.

 

UPM is investing 750 million Euros to build the world’s first industry scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany, to convert sustainably sourced, certified hardwood into next generation biochemicals that will enable the vital shift away from fossil-based to renewable materials across a wide range of industries. The biorefinery aims to produce 220,000 tonnes annually in total, with targeted by end of 2023.

 

UPM Biochemicals is an Associate Sponsor of Global Fashion Summit: Copenhagen Edition 2023.

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