As pressure towards circularity rises from legislation and consumer demand, Sympatex makes the case for working together to make circularity a reality.
For Sympatex, the willingness of the market to take collective responsibility for the environmental collateral of our industry has been decisive to its development. Today, the company is a system partner, ingredient supplier and advisory body to its customers. Through these many roles, Sympatex has learned one important lesson: Collaboration is key.
What is the Sympatex business model based on?
The branded Sympatex ingredient is a membrane made from polyester and developed in Europe, using a recipe that has been around for 35 years and is offered in various laminates. The chemical formula of the starting material is environmentally harmless. When laminated with polyester face and liner fabrics, the resulting monomaterial laminate is recyclable and can theoretically be manufactured into a fully circular end product. However, the components that lead to a finished product – like zippers, buttons, threads, accessories and shoe soles – decide on the product’s recyclability. Here is where circular design thinking begins.
Just like the fact that one sustainable ingredient does not make a green product, the conclusion for all of us can only be to sustainably adapt business processes, development stages and the entire product portfolio. Balance sheets must be designed with economic sensitivity and supplemented with the social and environmental costs and resource benefits. Reducing what is unnecessary or required is mandatory for consumption, development, and output to reach our goals.
What factors are currently influencing the market situation and Sympatex’s business model?
- The EU push for circular textile solutions.
- Brands are beginning to transform their business models and product.
- Innovations point the way – founders are the basis, science is the engine.
- Legislative processes ban substances harmful to the environment and health.
- Portfolio and collection developments adapt to circumstances.
In March 2022, the European Commission has been committed to adopting to ensure compliance with the proportionality principle, enforce a complete ban on fluorochemicals and force transparency for the consumer. With the deadlines for developing new product lines insight, we have to act now. So, 2022 will be a decisive year for the textile industry. 100 billion garments and 23 billion pairs of shoes are produced per year, most of them dumped or burned after use in the current linear product life. Considering the knowledge and technical possibilities available, we need to learn to see the possible opportunity in the numbers: 100bn garments and 23bn shoes represent the future source of new raw material for producing (textile) industries.
The prerequisite for circularity
The most important is the use of pure polyester compositions. Based on this, Sympatex calls on the textile industry to adopt a collective monomaterial strategy for the performance areas where functional textiles are to be used.
Why polyester? Because 1) polyester is the only synthetic material that allows an efficient recycling process; 2) Recycled polyester saves the most water and CO2; 3) Polyester has by far the broadest application in our industry; 4) Only polyester-based mono-materials can be easily recycled.
Add these innovative technologies: Welding, 3D modeling, thermoforming – each offers opportunities for minimal material consumption and technological minimization of resource waste in production. Together with its partners, Sympatex develops products that guarantee maximum performance for waterproofness and breathability without harmful chemicals and, in the medium term, also without taping.
What should the next steps for the textile industry be?
True circularity can only be achieved through collaborative efforts. What we need are cross-company cooperations as they release enormous knowledge and opportunities. Remodeling the textile industry from linear to circular production requires unconditional transparency of expertise, solutions, research and science – Sympatex believes cooperation is the decisive prerequisite for closing the loop. The system can only be changed if the entire industry agrees on specific standards and leaves competition aside to a certain extent.
This is why Sympatex pursues cooperation and strategic partnerships at the heart of its action. To this end, the Sympathy Lab powered by Sympatex was launched in December 2021 as a joint forum. The new web platform stands for collaboration, education and impulses that empower the entire outdoor and fashion industry for the sustainable change. The setup is a webinar series organized monthly in collaboration with different people and brands. The goal is to create a library. Sympathy lab is inviting all stakeholders to share relevant information here, – only together will a much larger movement be created.
2022 Sympathy Lab Milestones
- Create a platform for sustainability reports strategic papers for concrete courses of action as best-practice guidelines – independent of competitive thinking.
- To use monthly vertical TV and audio formats to contribute journalistically to transparency and knowledge in attractive implementation to active discussion and concrete guidance for change.
- To convince younger generations and young professionals to work in the textile, footwear and outdoor industries – from retailers to teachers.
- To become the exchange platform for innovative, straightforward and inspiring personalities.
Photo: Michael Mueller/Sympatex