For the companies whose products and brands are known to consumers – and whose products need to back up any eco-message they are sending in their advertising and marketing – it is vital for apparel manufacturers that their key raw materials suppliers share the same commitment to sustainability efforts. It is these raw materials that take eco-efforts back to the basics and allow apparel designers to be confident from the start that the materials they are utilizing fit into their sustainability model.
Enter the Gore Fabrics Division, which in 2021 again demonstrated its eco-commitment with the development of expanded polyethylene (ePE) as a new complementary material platform for its membrane technologies in its consumer business, setting another milestone on its sustainability journey.
The technology is complex, yet simple to explain: Gore’s 40 years of material science knowledge have now been applied to manipulate polyethylene (PE) into a highly porous, strong polymer scaffold suitable for high-performance, durable waterproof apparel. The result is this ePE, a light and thin, but also strong, microporous material. Combining the ePE material with another polymer – polyurethane – creates a waterproof, windproof and breathable membrane with a lower environmental footprint.
Gore’s new ePE membrane comes with a range of sustainability attributes:
• It has been engineered for durable performance to provide a long product life.
• It leverages a high strength-to-weight ratio to create extremely lightweight and thin composites that are still mechanically robust, but allow for reduced material usage, contributing to improved resource efficiency.
• The new ePE membranes as well as the DWR treatments used are PFC-free and therefore advance the division’s goal of being free of PFCs of Environmental Concern over the lifecycle of its consumer products. In this case, the goal is accomplished by using non-fluorinated materials.
“Sustainability is the number one priority for our business and the Gore-Tex brand and ePE is the next milestone on our responsible performance journey and perhaps marks the biggest day since we launched ePTFE and the Gore-Tex brand 40 years ago,” says Nora Stowell, global sales and marketing leader for the Gore Fabrics Division. “The introduction of our new ePE-based laminate also shows our aspiration to lead the industry with the highest performing, sustainable Gore-Tex products and solutions.”
Gore’s new ePE membrane will be certified to Standard 100 by Oeko-Tax, bluesign approved, and – depending on laminate selection – available with recycled and solution-dyed textile components. As measured by the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI), the ePE raw material and its consequently low membrane mass together result in a lower carbon footprint, compared to equivalent ePTFE membranes.
Beginning in Fall/Winter 2022, Gore’s new ePE membrane will be used in general outdoor and lifestyle garments, lifestyle footwear and snow sports gloves. Selected customers include Adidas, Arc’teryx, Dakine, Patagonia, Reusch, Salomon and Ziener. Their products with the new ePE membrane will carry Gore-Tex’s “Guaranteed To Keep You Dry” promise. Products for additional consumer end-uses (and from more customers) will be introduced in upcoming seasons.
“The message for our brand partners is clear — with our new Gore-Tex products leveraging the ePE membrane we are expanding our range of laminate options for high product performance and sustainability,” explains Lara Wittmann, who is with the global strategic marketing–consumer garments unit for Gore Fabrics Division in Munich. “Hearing our brand partners’ excitement and requests to collaborate is the feedback we were hoping for.”