Lenzing and Covestro have joined forces to develop a sustainable solution for coated textile materials for shoes. Genuine leather, despite all its good properties, is increasingly criticized not only by animal welfare organizations and a growing vegan community; but also because the environmental impact of the conventional tanning industry with its high water consumption and chemical use is very controversial.
What is today generally known as “vegan leather”, “faux leather” or “artificial leather” is typically a bonding of a plastic or polyurethane coating with a fabric backing. In terms of environmental impact, artificial leather is not necessarily better than genuine leather as every material has certain environmental costs associated with it. Coatings can contain toxins, such as the organic solvent dimethylformamide (DMF), which can cause severe health effects1. For this reason, DMF has been added to ANNEX XVII of the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) list of banned substances.
This is why Lenzing and Covestro started a joint path of developing sustainable coated textiles for the footwear industry. Both companies are working to provide sustainable solutions to the market. Lenzing, known as a global innovation leader for high-quality fibers made from the renewable raw material wood with environmen-tally friendly and innovative technologies, has recently entered the footwear segment. “The industry is looking for greener solutions. This trend is certainly driven by greater consumer awareness of the need to reduce plas-tic waste and to stop exploiting scarce resources. In search of sustainable products, more and more shoe brands are discovering TENCEL™ for footwear. Our TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers are made of wood from respon-sible managed sources and produced in a closed-loop-process,” says Birgit Schnetzlinger, Lenzing’s Global Business Manager for Footwear.
Also Covestro’s Thomas Michaelis is recognizing a strong interest in environmental concerns. “We moved our focus from solvent based to a waterborne system. Covestro’s INSQIN® brand stands for new Polyurethan Dispersions formulations, entirely free from DMF. According to an internal Covestro study, the production of PU synthetics with INSQIN® technology uses 95 percent less process water than with conventional PU and in a recent life cycle assessment study they found, that it substantially reduces the carbon footprint of the material by 45 percent , as compared to conventional, solvent-based technology.”
TENCEL™ Lyocell has a remarkably smaller environmental footprint than conventional cotton. In particular, the water impact of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers is up to six times lower than that for conventional cotton2. In addition to this significantly smaller footprint, TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers are from a biobased origin and are compostable.
The result of these developments is an outstanding product that sets new standards for the environmental performance of coated textiles – in terms of LCA data for both TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers and Covestro INSQIN®.
“The developments in the footwear sector with Covestro’s INSQIN® coating are a perfect match for our entire portfolio of technical textiles. They are just one example of the wide range of technical applications in which TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers can offer both technical and environmental benefits,” adds Dr. Marina Crnoja-Cosic, Head of Business Management Industrial Applications at Lenzing.
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- These results were calculated using the Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI) tools provided by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Higg MSI tools assess impacts of materials from cradle-to-gate for a finished material (e.g., to the point at which the materials are ready to be assembled into a product). However, the results here show impacts from cradle to fiber production gate.