The bio-sourcing process
Did you know that the traditional way to make a snow jacket requires petroleum extraction?
Conventional technical polyester fabric (PET) consists of mono-ethylene-glycol (30%) and terephthalic acid (70%), both petro-chemical compounds.
Thankfully other solutions exist. It goes without saying that Picture has been using recycled polyester made from used plastic bottles since the very beginning in 2008.
However, we are always looking for new solutions to directly or indirectly wipe out our dependence on fossil fuels.
Bio-sourcing represents one of these solutions.
What is bio-sourcing?
In the case of a snow jacket, it means creating a fabric partially made with plant material such as sugar cane or castor beans. In general, plants that contain sucrose (beets, sugar cane…) or starch (wheat, corn…) can be transformed into bio-mono ethylene glycol (Bio-MEG) to replace conventional petroleum-based MEG.
Reorienting our strategy towards bio-sourcing represents a major commitment to the environment and to wiping out our extremely polluting dependence on fossil fuels: oil in this case. We firmly believe that the fight against climate change starts by ending this dependence on several levels: energy, fuel, and plastics use, as well as in textile manufacturing.
Our short-term goal is to expand the use of bio-sourced materials throughout our line of technical apparel.
We will start with the Harvest Jacket for the 2019/2020 winter season. For 2020/2021, approximately 35% of our technical apparel will be made with bio-sourced materials.
Here is a simple overview of how bio-sourcing works for a snow jacket:
Let’s take sugar cane as an example. More specifically, the sugar extract from the sugar cane is what interests us. Refining the sugar (melting, bleaching, and crystallization) produces a mixture referred to as molasses.
After the fermenting process, the molasses is usually used to produce ethyl alcohol (or ethanol).
Fermenting sugars to make ethanol is one of the oldest biotechnologies used by human beings, especially in the alcohol industry, and has been around since prehistory to make alcoholic beverages. More recently, ethanol has also been used as a fuel.
In Picture’s case, we plan to use a fermentation process with specific bacteria that will transform the sugars from the raw material to create, through a chemical reaction, bio-ethanol. The bio-ethanol will then be converted into bio-mono ethylene glycol (BIO-MEG) through another phase of synthesis. This process provides us with a non-petroleum based MEG!
While complicated on the surface, we are simply applying an age-old process to textile manufacturing. In the 1950s in France, we already had the ability to make polyamide fabrics using castor bean oil. The petro-chemical industry decided otherwise by launching low-cost textiles onto the market.
Bio-sourced textiles require using a plant. Plants mean farming and the potential risk of deforestation.
One of the most well-known deforestation problems is in Indonesia, where they grow Hevea trees on a massive scale for rubber production (tires, textiles, etc.).
The bio-sourcing supply chain is relatively new, and specific certifications are currently emerging. We will never choose a supplier that contributes to deforestation.
For 2019/2020, the Harvest jacket marks the starting point for this new approach. We designed it with a bio-sourced waterproof-breathable membrane.
In 2020/2021, we will make some of our jackets using both recycled (from plastic bottles) and bio-sourced fabrics as the next step in our move away from using conventional, petroleum-based polyester.
Our long-term goal is to expand bio-sourcing throughout our entire range to wipe out every connection we have with petroleum (plastic bottles being considered a waste derivative).
To be continued!