THE INNOVATION FORUM
@ INTERFILIERE SHANGHAI – September 26 & 27, 2018
THE MIRAGE OF “ECO-MATERIAL”
What is an “eco-material“? According to the collective opinion, it is a material whose main quality is to have a positive impact on the environment. Unfortunately, as soon as a raw material is extracted then transformed so that it can be exploited, it necessarily has an impact on our planet’s resources. It is therefore difficult to speak about a positive impact. For beyond depleting the raw material itself, there is also the depletion of water, crude oil and energy reserves to consider. Industrial activity will thus always have an impact on the environment.
The challenge is therefore to limit and reduce the impact of industrial activity by choosing the right materials for the right purpose. The same applies to the choice of transformation processes.
PURPOSE AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Purpose: this is a key idea to be taken into account when studying the environmental impact of a product
To reduce a product’s environmental impact, it is very tempting to reduce the quantity of materials used. However, when trying to reduce materials, it is essential to take into account the product’s purpose, so that the “new” product performs as well as the original one. If the product is single-use, reducing the quantity of materials can be an acceptable solution. But for a “sustainable” product, the reduction of materials must be assessed in view of the quality and life-span required for the product. Indeed, if the product is not durable enough, the consumer will have to replace it by another one. We will therefore have to compare the environmental impacts of producing two products as opposed to that of producing one product with a longer lifespan, and the results will certainly come out in favour of the latter.
So, when committing to an eco-design approach, it is essential to integrate the usual criteria that come into play when designing a product, namely the expected functionality and usage, customer expectations, cost, etc.
When it comes to lingerie, it is recommended that “resistant” materials should be used for “basic” products which will be worn and washed regularly. Inversely, more “delicate” products can be used for items that are only worn occasionally. Likewise, the fabric chosen for an “active” sports legging (running, cycling, etc.) will need to be resistant to wear, and seam assembly will need to be “solid” to avoid “tears”.
Environmental impact of different materials and textile processes suitable for the lingerie, swimwear and activewear markets
The environmental impact of a product can be lessened by the reduction of the quantity of materials used but also by the choice of materials and processes used. The extraction and transformation of each raw textile material but also the different stages of manufacture have greater or lesser environmental impact, such as the depletion of natural resources, the consumption of water and energy, aquatic and human toxicity, the quantity of waste generated, etc.
It is therefore useful to identify and quantify the environmental impact of different textile raw materials and production processes, even if it is not easy to set up a comparative list of advantages and disadvantages for each textile fibre and process in terms of the desired properties.
To help you make these choices, come visit the INNOVATION FORUM @ INTERFILIERE SHANGHAI and learn about the technical and environmental qualities of the most commonly used textile fibers in the fields of lingerie, swimwear and activewear but also the main processes of dyeing and printing.