On the occasion of the LifeWear Day consumer exhibition taking place this year in London, UNIQLO and Toray Industries, Inc. announced a joint development of down clothing employing reclaimed down and Dry-Ex apparel produced with fabrics made from PET-bottle-recycled polyester fibers.
This new initiative, part of a longstanding strategic partnership between the two companies, will contribute to sustainability by giving consumers access to merchandise that optimizes the use of valuable resources.
Tadashi Yanai, UNIQLO Founder and Chairman, President and CEO of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., says, “UNIQLO is committed to improving the sustainability of society. To this end, we will soon begin our new initiative with Toray that promotes the use of recycled materials. Through such an important partnership, we can continue to offer high-performance, high-quality and sustainable clothing to all customers around the world.”
Akihiro Nikkaku, President of Toray, says, “At Toray we challenge ourselves to find solutions to global social issues with our belief that ‘materials can change our lives’. By promoting businesses that contribute to sustainability together with our strategic partner UNIQLO, we aim to create new value and realize a prosperous society through LifeWear.”
UNIQLO stores will collect used Ultra Light Down items from customers. A new Toray-developed system will extract down from these items, to be cleansed for use in new down merchandise. The collection of down items is scheduled to start later this month initially only in Japan, and some down products from the fall/winter 2020 season will employ this recycled material.
Conventionally, the stuffing in duvets and other objects incorporating down is manually removed. Such processes are arduous with Ultra Light Down items because of their thin shells and complex construction. By developing special extraction machinery, Toray has fully automated cutting, stirring, separating and recovery, for 50-fold the process capacity of manual processes, thus greatly alleviating workloads.
Dry-Ex is a revolutionary material that quickly wicks away sweat and moisture. From spring/summer 2020, UNIQLO will begin to introduce Dry-Ex items of clothing that incorporate high value-added polyester fibers derived from reclaimed PET bottles.
This is a milestone because, while fibers made from reclaimed plastic bottles have been commercially available for some time, it has been hard to produce fibers featuring special cross-sections and fine fibers, owing to contaminants in PET bottles. Another challenge to address has been that plastic bottles yellow as they age.
Toray’s contaminant filtering technology overcomes these issues, making it possible to manufacture fibers whose features are commensurate with those of fibers from plastic made directly from petrochemical feedstock, including those with special cross-sections. Another advance is Toray’s Recycling Identification System, which enhances reliability by ensuring that fibers derived from plastic bottles are traceable.