UPM Biochemicals and Vaude, an outdoor apparel supplier, have teamed up to make garments made with bio-based chemicals.

According to the companies, 60% of all materials currently used by the fashion industry are made from fossil-based polymers. UPM says it recognises “the acute challenge faced by the textile and footwear industries to find more sustainable solutions for the polyester and polyurethane used in their products”. To help accelerate the sustainable transformation of the textile industry, UPM will be producing new, climate-neutral materials from sustainably sourced forest biomass that will help replace fossil raw materials in the textile value chain.

UPM and Vaude will then create “the first ever” fleece jacket made from wood-based polyester.

“The resin used to make polyester contains 30% monoethylene glycol (MEG), which is traditionally sourced from crude oil. In UPM and Vaude’s process, this ingredient will be entirely replaced with a new bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG), UPM’s BioPura. BioPura is a drop-in solution that can be easily implemented into existing polyester manufacturing processes as it is identical to currently used MEG on a molecular basis.”

Chemical company Indorama Ventures will polymerise and spin a polyester yarn containing UPM’s BioPura BioMEG. Pontetorto, a textile manufacturer located in Prato, Italy, will then process this yarn into a novel, bio-based polyester fabric which Vaude will use to produce the final garment. 

“This partnership shows that transformative steps in the chemical industry towards renewable materials are possible now”, says Michael Duetsch, vice president biochemicals at UPM. 

“We are prototyping a world beyond fossils with Vaude, proving that the next level of sustainable textiles is available. Vaude sets an example in breaking away from oil-based textiles and reducing emission reductions that the whole industry must follow.”

UPM is investing €750 million to build the world’s first industry scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany. In Leuna, UPM will convert sustainably sourced, certified hardwood into next-generation biochemicals that it says will enable the vital shift away from fossil-based to renewable materials.

The biorefinery aims to produce 220,000 tonnes annually in total, with start-up targeted to take place by the end of 2023.