CircularityLife Style

UPM x Vaude launched world’s first bio-based fleece jacket

Fleece jackets are cozy, comfortable, and versatile, but they also have a dark side. Most of them are made from synthetic materials, such as polyester, which are derived from fossil fuels and contribute to climate change, pollution, and waste. Moreover, fleece jackets shed microplastics when washed, which end up in the oceans and harm marine life.

But what if there was a way to make fleece jackets from renewable and biodegradable materials, such as wood? That’s the question that UPM Biochemicals and VAUDE, a German outdoor clothing company, set out to answer. Together, they developed the world’s first fleece jacket made from wood-based polyester, a groundbreaking innovation that could transform the fashion industry and the environment. The UPM Biochemicals and VAUDE have showcased their innovation at ISPO Munich 2023, the world’s largest sports trade show, where the worldwide business sports community comes together to share their perspectives about future trends and industry practice.

What is Bio – based fleece jacket and how is it made?

UPM and VAUDE are producing bio-based fleece fabric by using wood-based polyester, which is made from wood pulp that is converted into bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG) and then polymerized with terephthalic acid (PTA) to form polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This PET resin contains 30% of BioMEG. The PET resin is then spun into fibers, woven into fabric, and brushed to create the fleece. This identical process replaces the fossil-based monoethylene glycol (MEG) that is normally used in polyester production with a renewable and biodegradable alternative. It’s a drop-in solution that can be used on a molecular basis and also go for corresponding recycling streams as well.

UPM and VAUDE claim that this innovation can reduce the environmental impact and increase the circularity of the textile industry. Approximately 60% of all materials currently used by the fashion industry are made from fossil-based polymers. While there is a need for synthetic polymers especially for key performance materials it is hoped that this prototype will inspire and motivate brands to exit fossil-based materials for more sustainable bio-based solutions, accelerating the sustainable transformation of the textile industry.

Figure: Process flow-chart of producing Bio-fleece from Biomass at UPM Biorefinery

Re- shaping the future; What are VAUDE and UPM saying

We have partnered with UPM as partnerships across the whole value chain are a prerequisite for enhancing sustainable innovations. This initial milestone marks the first step in our journey to create a polyester derived from non-fossil ingredients.
Producing outerwear made with bio-based chemicals is part of our shift towards using renewable materials in the textile and apparel value chain – we want 90 percent of all our products to be bio-based or have recycled content of more than 50 percent

René Bethmann, Senior Innovation Manager at Vaude

VAUDE and UPM have collaborated to bring solutions for challenges that the textile and footwear industries are facing. Their initiatives are to take movements for making fossil-based materials also ensuring their longevity and sustainability.
Vaude, known for its commitment to sustainability, sees this collaboration as an affirmation of the appeal of its sustainable product portfolio. By growing their biorefinery business to supply bio-based renewable materials, they aim to help global brands reduce CO2 emissions and move away from fossil-based products.

VAUDE is a leader in advancing sustainable products – addressing all aspects of sustainability from longevity through repairability and alternative use options to truly responsible materials. This collaboration confirms the strong appeal of our novel product portfolio to changemakers in the outdoor and sports industry but also beyond. By building a first-of-its-kind biorefining business to offer a new generation of bio-based renewable materials, we can help global brands to reduce their CO2 footprint and defossilize their products.” “We recognise the acute challenge faced by the fashion and footwear industries to find more sustainable solutions for the textiles and materials used in their products. Today’s launch of the first ever bio-based fleece jacket is a milestone in responding to that challenge, enabling fashion industry leaders to take action now and move beyond fossil-based materials

Michael Duetsch, Vice President of Biochemistry at UPM

Collaboration that goes worldwide

UPM’s €1,180 million investment to build the world’s first industrial-scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany, reflects a broader commitment to the transition to renewable materials. The biorefinery will convert sustainably sourced hardwood into biochemical products, contributing to the transition from fossil to renewable materials in various industries.
Partnerships across the whole value chain are a prerequisite for enhancing sustainable innovations across various industries. In this case, Indorama Ventures Public Company Ltd. (IVL), Bangkok/Thailand, will polymerize and spin a polyester yarn containing UPM’s BioPura BioMEG at its German site in Guben. Pontetorto SpA, Prato/Italy, will then process this yarn into a novel, bio-based polyester fabric which Vaude will use to produce the final garment. Sustainably sourced, certified hardwood will be converted into next-generation biochemicals, facilitating the critical transition from fossil to renewable materials across many industries. The biorefinery is now aiming to produce a total of 220,000 tons of bio-fleece fabric from biomass per year.

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