Great products require great materials. We develop all of our materials from scratch and make well-informed decisions. There is no such thing as a 100% sustainable material and every option has pros and cons. And to be honest, every production of materials has a significant impact on people and the environment.
Material selection, Climate protection
Over 65% of a product's environmental impact occurs in the manufacture of its materials. For us, this is reason enough to place the main focus of our efforts on this.
Polyester is one of the most important materials for our bags and backpacks. It is very durable and long-lasting, absorbs little water and is relatively inexpensive. Since our products don't usually end up in washing machines or oceans, the problem of microplastic creation is rather secondary. Conventional polyester is made from chemicals based on fossil fuels, whose main raw material is petroleum. We know that this reliance on new fossil-based materials is damaging to our environment.
Since 2016, we have used recycled polyester from PET bottles in our products. This has become established over the years and the cost has come down, so it is now also used for the food industry. This so-called mechanically recycled polyester now makes up the vast majority of recycled polyester from beverage bottles, at 99%. But actually, the textile industry itself has a gigantic waste problem to solve. Recycling plastic bottles is no longer enough.
Plastic bottle recycling can no longer be claimed 'sustainable'
While repeated recycling of bottles works well, old textiles made from plastic bottles usually cannot be recycled again into plastic bottles. There are no end-of-life options in mechanical recycling for these textile fibers, as the molecules decompose during melting. Each cycle means a loss of quality, making it difficult to obtain new products made from 100% recycled PET. The possibility of linear recycling contrasts with the possibility of recycling PET bottles several times to make new bottles.
So we need other solutions for the future of textiles in cycles. We are working intensively on this and have set ourselves the goal of producing polyester only from recycled textiles in the coming seasons.
Polyester has over half the global market share of all textiles produced because it is durable, long-lasting, absorbs little water, and relatively inexpensive. Also, it can be recycled quite well.
What about microplastics?
Polyester releases microplastic, but for products - like bags and backpacks - which are not washed in the washing machine or end up in the ocean, this aspect is not relevant.
What is the mechanical recycling of PET?
Since 2018, we have been using recycled polyester from PET bottles for our products. We helped to establish this technology. Meanwhile, 99% of recycled PET comes from PET bottles. This mechanical recycling has a relatively low GHG emission profile Mehr Informationen:Material Change Insights, Textile Exhange 2022
Why do you want to stop using PET bottles?
Meanwhile, the food industry has also started reusing plastic bottles since the price dropped. And this is a good thing since bottle-to-bottle recycling works well as a circular process. But once the plastic bottles are turned into textiles it is difficult to recycle the polyester again. So there are no end-of-life options for textiles made from plastic bottles!
Why can PET from bottle recycling not be claimed sustainable for textile brands anymore?
The textile industry has a massive waste problem to solve. Every second, a truckload of textiles is sent to landfills or incinerated somewhere on earth. In 2021 only 0.6% of the textiles were recycled into new textiles. This means 99,4% ended up in landfills or got burned!
Ocean bound plastic is not just what fishermen fish out of the ocean as bycatch. The definition also applies to any plastic trash collected within 50 km of the coast. The garbage therefore mainly comes from normal households in this area, because it could also end up in the sea. For us, this definition is too broad.
The pollution of the oceans is a very big problem; more than 80% of the plastic in the oceans comes from rivers. That's why we partnered with Plastic Fischer, a social enterprise that develops cost-effective technologies to collect plastic waste from rivers before it enters the oceans. However, we do not use the collected plastic waste for our products afterward because it is often too dirty and the transport from the collection point to our production is too far (emissions for transport).
Why are you not using organic materials such as cotton instead of polyester?
Cotton often comes with a very big footprint. It takes over 1,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton. Often pesticides are used. The recycling of cellulosic materials - such as cotton - is still difficult and often has to be mixed with other fibers to make it more stable.
Polyurethane Vegan Tech Material
Leather made from animal skins is valued for its feel and durability. Still, the supply chain is associated with environmentally damaging tanning processes, animal cruelty and industrial livestock farming. Leather production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in tropical countries like Brazil. Huge forest areas are illegally cleared for cattle farming, destroying important ecosystems worldwide. These practices must be stopped immediately.
For this reason, we only use what is commonly known as 'vegan leather' on our products. Often, this alternative to leather is also referred to as 'tech material' because it imitates the layers of leather through a combination of different materials - a fabric as a backing, a foam layer of polyurethane (PU), and one or more films of dense PU film on the surface. Many 'vegan leathers' don't come close to the longevity of genuine leather. Besides defective zippers, damage to the surface of the material is one of the main reasons customers no longer use a bag or backpack.
A change in material – A change for the climate
‘Lotus Infinity’ Material ‘PUrTEX∞’
We set out to change that. None of the materials available on the market completely convinced us. Over a period of several years, we developed our own material, which is second to none.
Our goals were quite ambitious:
Less chemistry, CO2, energy, water, material
Improved abrasion resistance of surface, higher tensile strength, higher flexibility especially for roll-tops
Higher recycling rate, end-of-life option
Together with the experts of one of the world's largest manufacturers, we have succeeded in developing a new material with outstanding properties.
The laboratory comparison with commercially available artificial leathers is quite convincing:
Conventional PU material
‘Lotus Infinity’ Material ‘PUrTEX∞’
Device in the test laboratory to determine the abrasion resistance of materials with 1kg load on the scraper. Abrasion resistance is defined as the ability of a material to withstand mechanical impact such as rubbing, scratching or erosion. Even after more than 100 rotations, the 'PUrTEX∞' material showed no signs of abrasion - but commercially available material did after just one rotation.
Everyday test with a heavy hammer. Even after repeated hammering and rubbing on rough asphalt, the 'PUrTEX∞' material shows hardly any signs of wear.
Everyday test with bicycle and a load of 10kg weight. Even after more than 50m on concrete slabs, the 'PUrTEX∞' material shows hardly any wear - apart from dirt.
Two thin PU film layer on the surface provides fine grain and color. The PU foam underneath provides a smooth touch. The secret of durability lies in the extremely stable cross-connection structures of the foam. These allowed us to reduce the amount of PU by -30%. As a support material for stabilization, an interlock knit made of recycled PET is in the lower half. This consists of 100% recycled textiles!
'PUrTEX∞' material enlarged in the microscope as sectional view
In this new development, we were able to eliminate two other components completely. We have dispensed with solvents such as DMF (dimethylformamide) and adhesives containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). In higher concentrations, both have a harmful effect on people and the environment - or cause unpleasant odors.
The production process of the new polyurethane is much more sustainable. Compared to the previous material, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by -47%, water consumption by -17% and energy consumption by -37%, 60% of which comes from renewable energy sources.
REDUCTION OF EMISSIONS
Conventional PU material
‘Lotus Infinity’ Material ‘PUrTEX∞’
Frequently asked questions about leather and PU material
What's the problem with genuine leather?
Genuine leather is made from animal skin. It has a great hand feel and can be very durable. Unfortunately, it comes with animal cruelty and industrial livestock farming. It is the main reason for rainforest deforestation in countries such as Brazil) also because of soja production to feed the cattle. Huge forest areas are illegally cleared for cattle farming, destroying important ecosystems worldwide. The tanning process of leather can be damaging to the environment and people. Since 2015 we have been a PETA partner and therefore a vegan company.
Is artificial leather the solution?
Artificial leather is often called tech or vegan leather. It simulates genuine leather, but it is usually not getting there. The lifetime is shorter since the surface is less durable. It is based on Polyurethane (PU) for the surface film and the foam layer below. Often this comes with chemicals such as DMF or VOC. There is a backing fabric to provide general stability, which can be made from any type of fiber.
Why is the ‘Lotus Infinity’ material different from others?
We spent over two years developing this new material from scratch. We set high goals for it and achieved all of them. The durability of the surface is similar to genuine leather. The footprint went down due to fewer chemicals, less carbon emissions, less energy, less water, and less material thickness. And we reached a high recycling rate.
Why is the ‘Lotus Infinity’ material called ‘PUrTEX∞’?
This acronym stands for ‘PolyUrethane’, the words ‘recycled Textiles’ and ‘Infinity’. The word ‘Infinity’ is related to the fact that this material has similar durability characteristics as leather. Also, we expect that soon, our backpacks can be reborn by chemical recycling since the rate of polyester is above 75% of the product weight.
Why can the ‘Lotus Infinity’ material be called more sustainable?
Half of the material is made from recycled textile waste located on the backside. The upper part is made from extremely long-lasting Polyurethane (PU), which we even managed to reduce by -30% of the thickness. Also, it is free of solvents such as DMF and VOC. The CO2e is reduced by over - 50%, the energy is reduced by over -40% and comes mainly from renewable sources.
Why is the ‘Lotus Infinity’ material so durable?
The PU foam layer has a cross-link structure and the functional aspects are similar to molded rubber. The test results show that the tensile strength increased by +50%, the tear strength increased by +100% and the surface adhesion strength increased by +400%. The scratch resistance improved over 100 times compared to conventional tech leather as the material from the Lotus Series.