lululemon launches enzymatically recycled garments

Friday, 23 February, 2024

lululemon launches enzymatically recycled garments

‘Plastic-eating’ enzymes deployed by Australian enviro-tech startup Samsara Eco have helped athletic apparel brand lululemon to create apparel with a potentially infinite life.

The partners recently launched what they describe as the world’s first enzymatically recycled nylon 6,6 product.

Nylon 6,6 is one of the most commonly used plastics in the textile industry, with about 4 million tonnes created per year. It is a foundational fibre used by lululemon to make many of its bestselling products. Nylon 6,6 has been notoriously difficult to recycle, but because of its tough, heavy-duty properties it has been used in a variety of industries, including fashion, automotive and electronics.

Working with lululemon, Samsara Eco developed a new (patent pending) technology that extracts nylon 6,6 from end-of-life textiles, demonstrating the potential to create a fully circular ecosystem for apparel. Using the recycled nylon 6,6, lululemon has produced samples of its Swiftly Tech Long-Sleeve Top.

“Until now, textile-to-textile nylon 6,6 has been unrecyclable. The samples we have created with lululemon represent a world-first breakthrough for the future of textile waste. Our work with lululemon shows the potential to give clothes an infinite life,” said Paul Riley, CEO and Founder of Samsara Eco.

With the Swiftly samples, lululemon nylon apparel at the end-of-life stage is combined with other non-textile materials to create recycled nylon for use in new lululemon products. Using its library of plastic-eating enzymes, Samsara Eco’s manufacturing process is completed within hours and at a low temperature, to make a product that is more sustainable.

Over 90% of the nylon used in each of the lululemon Swiftly top samples is produced using Samsara’s enzymatic recycling process, and the samples offer the same fit, feel and quality guests expect from lululemon products.

“The lululemon Swiftly top samples go beyond material innovation — they represent the exciting possibilities and impact that can be achieved through collaboration and cross-industry partnership,” said Yogendra Dandapure, Vice President, Raw Materials Innovation at lululemon.

“This breakthrough not only signals a turning point for sustainable innovation in apparel but for all industries looking to shift towards more circular models. We look forward to continuing to work with Samsara Eco to help scale this new technology in the months and years ahead.”

Image caption: The Samsara Eco team at work in the lab.

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