New technology offers environmentally friendly functional clothing

Scandinavian companies are not satisfied with the negative environmental impact of present water-repellent treatments for functional clothing. A solution to this problem has now been presented as the result of a unique collaborative project led by the company OrganoClick and the Smart Textiles Initiative at the University of Borås.

Water-repellent treatments for garments almost always involve the use of environmentally harmful fluorocarbons. Owing to a collaborative project between Smart Textiles and OrganoClick, in which a fluorocarbon-free, biodegradable and durable treatment has been developed, this is about to change.16. Prototype Factory OrganoClickDSC_0735

– In a few years, the industry will take the fluorocarbon-free option for granted, says Robin Grankvist, Business Area Manager at OrganoClick.


Tests performed at the Smart Textiles Prototype Factory and Swerea IVF have yielded excellent results, particularly in terms of wash durability. So good, in fact, that Asian fabric producer Chang-Ho Fibre jumped at an opportunity to sign an agreement with OrganoClick.

– As the majority of all textiles are produced in Asia, this agreement gives us an opportunity to offer global clothing brands fluorocarbon-free functional fabrics with water-repellent properties, which have been produced using nothing but biodegradable chemicals. This use of green chemistry is revolutionary and something I think we will see a lot more of in the future, says Robin Grankvist at OrganoClick.

A number of outdoor clothing companies are involved in the project, for example Haglöfs, Klättermusen, Norrona, Houdini and Bergans. They all consider this collaboration to be very important, as the use of fluorocarbons have long been a problem for the industry.


Scandinavia leads the way

– We consider it very unfortunate that one of the most important features of outdoor clothing – protection against moisture – has caused a fluorocarbon dependency in the outdoor clothing industry, says Joel Svedlund at Klättermusen AB.

– By working with suppliers and industry peers, we want to create competitive alternatives on the market which meet our high requirements on performance and environmental friendliness, says Sustainability manager Lennart Ekberg at Haglöfs.

Mia Tapio at Houdini adds to this by disclosing that the company has reached a point where sustainability is no longer just another parameter they have to take into account – it is a point of departure in their work.

­­– A high performing environmentally friendly water repellent will benefit not only us, but other actors in the market as well, says Brad Boren, Director of RD&D at Norrona.


Heated debate
Although the fluorocarbon debate has recently increased in intensity, clothes treated with the new water repellent have not yet reached the market. The reason is that it takes anywhere from one and a half to two years to complete the process from production to hanger.

– In Norway, the issue of fluorocarbons has been taken seriously and one type of fluorocarbons will be prohibited from June 2014. This is a clear signal to the entire industry, and it is hoped that it will spread to the rest of Europe, says Trude Blekastad at Norwegian company Bergans.

The success of the Smart Textiles project rests on the collaboration between experts from various fields, some of which come from Smart Textiles own environment, with full-scale laboratories and experienced technicians, and some from the industry and the business community. All Smart Textiles projects aim to benefit society at large and to contribute to creating new job opportunities.

– In this project, several competing companies collaborated to solve a common problem. This is a clear confirmation that our concept is unique and that it really works, says Susanne Nejderås, Assistant Process Leader at Smart Textiles.


Facts on fluorocarbons:
Fluorocarbons, or perfluorocarbons (PFC) is the collective term used for a group of substances with excellent water and dirt-repellent properties. This makes them well suited for uses such as waterproofing of functional clothing such as raincoats. However, they also have a number of less desirable properties; they break down slowly in nature, impede the ability to procreate in mammals, are suspected of causing cancer, and are known to travel long distances from their place of manufacture.


Text: Rebecca Lindholm