FET and Sustainability

The growing importance of sustainability

The growing trend towards global environmentalism and sustainability has been embraced by textile and yarn manufacturers and FET is at the forefront of innovation to help make this objective possible.

Sustainability means different things to different people, ranging from partial recyclability through to ensuring that every stage and process minimises environmental impact. For a fibre to be considered sustainable, both the polymer source and the end use of the product should also be taken into account.

Polymer source

The typical polymers used in fibre production are made from fossil fuels, a non-renewable resource with a high carbon footprint. Polymers made from renewable resources are a viable alternative to fossil fuels and can be broadly divided into two categories:

  • Bio-based Polymers are produced from biomass feedstocks such as starch, cellulose, lignin, fatty acids, plant and vegetable fats/oils.
  • Recycled Polymers repurpose existing materials, extending their usable lifetime and reducing the need to manufacture new material. Recycled materials may be sourced from closed loop recycling, post-industrial waste, post-consumer waste and chemical recycling.

 

FET and Sustainability

FET has long been a leading exponent of sustainability in fibre technology. The FET range of laboratory and pilot Melt Spinning extrusion lines is ideally suited for both process and end product development of sustainable materials, enabling customers to undertake process development in-house. All systems are designed to be material efficient, can be bespoke designed and offer both flexibility and a high level of processing capability. They are supplied as self-contained units for ease of installation in a laboratory or small scale process evaluation environment.

Sustainable fibre applications and market sectors served by FET include:

  • Medical – resorbables, PPE, face masks, gowns and bandages
  • Textiles – flooring, bedding, clothing, footwear and sportswear
  • Manufacturing – 3D printing, automotive, composites and filtration
  • Consumables – coffee filters, tea bags
  • Agriculture – tying twines, strimmer lines


Life Cycle

Fibres made from fossil fuel polymers are very durable and take hundreds of years to decompose, leading to littering and pollution. There are a growing number of alternative materials available which offer shorter life cycles, such as biodegradable or compostable polymers. These degradable properties can be naturally inherent or introduced through the use of additives.

There are also some polymers that fall under both of the categories stated above, being made from both renewable resources and having a more environmentally friendly shorter end of life.

There is often confusion over the terms used to describe sustainable polymers and their products, largely caused by confusing and inconsistent labelling or terminology. However, there are international standards in place produced by various international organisations that define the terminology and set out guidelines for assessing and certifying sustainable properties.


 

The FET Process Development Laboratory is a vital contributor, enabling access to equipment for customers to test and trial sustainable raw materials and processes. In recent years, a high proportion of FET’s laboratory development time related to the sustainability sector, with many successful outcomes in long term projects.

Some of these projects involved clients testing and developing sustainable ways of manufacturing yarns which were previously non-sustainable. In other cases, FET worked with polymer developers and inventors who wished to further evaluate the technology and take it to the next level in manufacturing capability.

 

 

FET has successfully processed almost 30 different polymer types in multifilament, monofilament and non-woven formats and continues to extend its breadth of experience in these specialist fields.
Click here for the full list of polymer products.