W.L. Gore & Associates, best known for its waterproof-breathable Gore-Tex fabrics and technologies, announced it will spend more than $15 million over the next five years to explore alternative solutions for today’s durable water repellent (DWR) treatments.
While today’s DWR is very effective, an increasing number of studies are showing that the man-made chemistry is sticking around in the environment for long periods of time with potential adverse effects. (SNEWS spotlighted the issue this past Winter Market in the O.R. Daily.)
In the big picture, outdoor brands represent a small user group of the fluorinated (PFC) chemistries — which in varying forms are used on a much larger scale to stain-guard carpets and create non-stick cookware — but the environmental concerns have the industry moving in a big way.
In April, Patagonia announced a $1 million investment in start-up chemical company Beyond Surface Technologies, which is working to develop more eco-friendly DWR treatments. In the meantime, many outdoor brands are shifting to shorter-chain chemistries (known as C6, versus the longer-chain C8), which, while still an environmental concern, diminish a little faster in the environment. There are also a host of non-fluorinated treatments rolling out, but with varied results on performance.
The push by Gore-Tex, Patagonia and others is to develop eco-friendly DWRs that deliver equal-to-better performance than the now-outgoing C8 versions.
“Our commitment as a technology leadership company goes far beyond finding alternatives to current coating solutions,” said, John P. Cusick, global business leader for consumer garments at W.L. Gore. “We are also exploring completely new approaches that may provide the necessary functionalities in non-traditional ways in order to reduce the environmental footprint of our products and to act as a role model for a more responsible outdoor industry.”