“By promoting businesses that contribute to sustainability together with our strategic partner Uniqlo, we aim to create new value and realise a prosperous society through LifeWear.”
Japanese global apparel retailer Uniqlo and materials maker Toray Industries are teaming up to produce clothing made from recycled down and fabric that contains polyester made from recycled PET bottles.
This new initiative, part of a long-standing strategic partnership between the two companies, features new production processes developed by Toray to ensure the end products offer high performance.
Uniqlo stores will collect used ‘Ultra Light Down’ Uniqlo (@UNIQLO_JP) items from customers. Subsequently, a Toray-developed system will then extract the down pieces, which will be cleansed for use in new down merchandise.
The collection will start this month, initially only in Japan, and some down products from the 2020 autumn/winter season will use this recycled material.
Conventionally, the stuffing in duvets and other objects incorporating down is manually removed. According to Toray, 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 and separating, and recovery, for a 50-fold increase in process capacity compared with manual methods.
Toray said it has also claimed another milestone with its new Dry-Ex pieces incorporating high-value-added polyester from recycled PET bottles in a fabric that quickly wicks away sweat and moisture.
While fabrics made from reclaimed plastic bottles have been commercially available for some time, it has been hard to produce fibres featuring special cross-sections and fine fibres, owing to contaminants in PET bottles, Toray said. 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 fibres whose features are commensurate with those of fibres from plastic made directly from petrochemical feedstock, including those with special cross-sections.
According to Toray, another advance is its Recycling Identification System, which enhances reliability by ensuring that fibres derived from plastic bottles are traceable.
Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo Founder and Chairman, President and CEO of Fast Retailing (parent company of Uniqlo), said: “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 Industries, added: “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 realise a prosperous society through LifeWear.”