Going off the beaten track? Outdoor manufacturer VAUDE literally took this idea twice: For its latest pair of trekking pants, the company uses a bio-based plastic fiber made from the oil of the castor plant – VESTAMID® Terra from Evonik.
“Textile manufacturing starts at the borehole,” says Benedikt Tröster from VAUDE. The trenchant phrase quite aptly reflects the reality of the modern textile industry: Synthetic fibers are ubiquitous in our clothing, whether they are called elastane, polyester or polyacrylic. And synthetic fibers almost always mean petroleum. This is now true for many types of underwear, sweaters and T-shirts, and it is even more true for that sub-sector of the industry to which VAUDE also belongs – the outdoor industry. After all, the outdoor industry is particularly dependent on textiles fulfilling certain outstanding functions: They have to be elastic, not tear and, if possible, be water-repellent. Until now, the answer to this requirement profile was petroleum-based plastics. But the outdoor professional based at the foot of the Alps on the shores of Lake Constance in Southern Germany is already on its way into the post-fossil age. “We want to move away from petroleum,” says Tröster. “Toward renewable or recycled raw materials.” By winter 2021, half of VAUDE’s new collection should be made from such materials. Currently, it is already one-third.
Crude oil is finite. This is one of the key reasons why the specialty chemical company Evonik developed VESTAMID® Terra more than ten years ago – a plastic that can be produced entirely from renewable raw materials. In this case, from the oil of the castor bean plant. VESTAMID® Terra can be used in a variety of industries and applications, from plastic buckles to toothbrush bristles. In addition to that, however, it turned out that the polyamide has outstanding properties for textiles and can also be spun into filaments. “The result is a fiber that is very comfortable to wear, has good water management properties, can be dyed well at low temperatures, and also contributes to CO2 savings,” says Uwe Kannengießer, Director of Optics & Filaments in the High Performance Polymers Business Unit at Evonik.