New sustainable technologies in the sportswear industry

There are multiple new sustainable technologies entering the industry, in which all are beginning to become more popular as well as better each time a new one drops. Here is a run down of a few new sustainable technologies, within the sportswear industry.

Mylo, is a fabric which is an alternative to leather, there are many alternatives out there however, Mylo has been used by Adidas and Lululemon using it in some of their clothing and footwear items. Mylo contains mycelium, which is from the root of a mushroom, the mycelium is taken to the lab where large sheets of foam are created, in which the sheets are processed and transformed into sheets of soft, biomaterial ready for surface texture and finishing. However Mylo is not completely plastic free, although it is aiming to become synthetic free in the near future. Adidas used Mylo to create a slightly new look on their iconic shoe, Stan smiths. Lululemon introduced a couple of products including a yoga mat made out of Mylo and two yoga bags. Mylo is good because it is strong and abrasion resistant, it has very similar properties to leather however it doesn’t use any animal products. However as like many things it comes with its disadvantages which include that it may not be very suitable for products that will gain a lot of wear and tear.

Another sustainable material that has been seen within the industry recently is Circulose, which is a material made out of other unused/discarded materials. By using renewable energy, the cotton is removed from the fabric and created into a pulp, where it is turned into a type of viscose (Similar to silk). Circulose has been deemed successful due to its use within large fashion chains such as H&M, who first introduced it to the industry in 2020. Now brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Zara and Levi’s have also used it in their products. Although Circulose hasn’t been used currently by a sportswear brand, it could easily be seen in the near future.The advantages of circulose is that as the material is made out of other materials that have been recycled and therefore the process is pretty straightforward, another advantage is that it does not use as much water as making cotton does which helps its environmental impact. However, alongside advantages comes disadvantages of the material too, one is that it is more expensive than cotton due to the recycling process and therefore those who do not necessarily think about sustainability of some products may not opt for the more expensive option.

Many brands now have a huge focus on sustainability, therefore the most commonly used sustainable material within the sportswear industry is recycled polyester, which is made out of post consumer plastic bottles or polyester clothing that has been dumped and no longer in use. The plastic can be melted down and then woven into new fabric which can be used again and again. It is often used due to its excellent sporting properties, such as breathability, durability and great moisture capture, which are many of the fabrics advantages alongside that the process is very energy efficient which also helps its environmental properties.However the disadvantages of recycled polyester is that it is still polyester and therefore it will still shed microplastics, which is still not ideal however as time moves on and more materials are developed then this problem could be resolved.

Another new sustainable material that has been discovered in recent years (PHB)-based leather, PHB standing for Polyhydroxybutyrate.Which is a leather that comes from where microorganisms convert oxygen from air and carbon from methane or carbon dioxide to PHB, which creates the leather like material, in which from this Nike have collaborated with them, however no products have been released yet with the material, although it is in the makings, if the collection released is successful we could see PHB being used in a lot more in leather alternative products such as shoes and bags.PHB is a great alternative for leather, it is good for the planet as it is biodegradable, it is cruelty free and eco friendly and therefore it helps reduce the demand for animal leather contributing to animal welfare and lowering the carbon footprint within the fashion industry.However although PHB leather is much better for the environment it means that one of the main drawbacks of it is that it is its cost, due to it being relatively new and innovative material it can be more expensive to produce that normal leather, therefore the cost of the product will too also be more expensive that traditional leather, therefore not accessible to as many customers.It is also not widely available due to it being new to the market and therefore it would be quite hard to create a large scale production using PHB leather.

A Plastic Planet is a company which only has one aim which is to create a plastic free world, therefore they focus on reducing plastic waste and promoting sustainable alternatives to plastic products.The company promotes the use of biodegradable materials and strives to raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastic waste. In recent years they have collaborated with SailGP to create “the world’s first plastic-free technical sportswear”, with 6 garments in the collection and 2 years to make, in which the materials used were 100% natural fibres. SailGP created a survey of around 1,500 recipients, where it was discovered that 72% of people said that they would prefer plastic free sportswear if they had the option and opportunity to purchase them.

Many brands focus on their sustainability, however there are a number which stand out due to their huge focus on sustainability such as Patagonia who not only are their products all sustainable they also offer a repair service where they can repair broken clothes or products to prevent them from being thrown away and reinforcing a circular economy. Since Patagonia’s products are so durable, the company itself encourages customers to recycle old Patagonia gear and purchase items second hand. Lastly, the brand closely monitors its supply chain to make sure that it is safe for the environment, workers and consumers while following fair-trade practices.

Adidas has also done well in trying to be/ go green, as in 2008 they introduced a programme called ‘Green company’ in which the programme aimed to minimise  natural resources consumption, reducing waste and achieving carbon neutrality. Through the program, the company has reduced 55% carbon emissions, 48% water consumption, 50% waste diversion, as well as 80% paper consumption as of 2020.

Although clothing itself is super important, the way that the product is distributed and packaged is also important. If the brand’s aim is to be sustainable, but uses tons of plastic to package their products then it wouldn’t quite match the brands aim and image. Therefore there have been loads of new sustainable ways of packaging, such as paper and environmentally friendly recycled plastic.

Big brands such as ASOS, Lush, Zara and Calvin Klein have changed their packaging to be much more eco friendly. ASOS have removed 40% of their own packaging since 2019. They are achieving this by using packaging sized appropriately for products, just by doing this the carbon footprint of the mail bags has been reduced 27%. Alongside this they have also removed paper return labels, and now return labels can be found all online. Zara’s packaging is all sustainable, in which their aim is to be landfill free by 2025.

Packing peanuts are huge in the packaging area of products as it is important that the product arrives to the customer in perfect condition. Recently a lot more companies are using biodegradable alternatives which have the exact same protection, however they are a lot better for the environment. Many big brands have taken these on board in a way to play their part in reducing their carbon footprint.

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