What are PFCs and why should you care? - culthread

What are PFCs and why should you care?

For several years, the Culthread team have been working with recycled polyester for our shell and lining fabrics as well as post consumer recycled plastic for our insulation.

Some of you have been asking for the ins and outs of what this means exactly, so prepare yourself for a detailed read about fabrics, recycled plastic, and chemical coatings.


How is recycled polyester made?

Recycled polyester or rPET, is obtained by melting down existing plastic and making it into new polyester fibre. It can be made from plastic bottles and containers thrown away by consumers or from both post-industrial and post-consumer input materials.

For example, 10 used plastic water bottles yield enough fibre for the shell of one Culthread jacket, with another 10 bottles used in the insulation for a winter puffer jacket. Recycled polyester gives a second life to a material that’s not biodegradable and would otherwise end up in landfills or the ocean. rPET is just as good as virgin polyester, but takes fewer resources to make. Because polyester accounts for nearly 60 percent of the world’s production of PET, which is double that produced for plastic bottles, if the fashion industry would exclusively use rPET instead of virgin PET, it would have a massive impact on global energy and resource requirements.

So why doesn’t the whole industry just use rPET instead of new polyester?

Recycled polyester is much more expensive than other less sustainable options, which is why fast fashion brands don’t use it. As consumers we’re used to clothes costing a fraction of what they should cost, and it’s much more lucrative for fast fashion companies to sell cheaper, lower quality products than focus on using sustainable fabrics and ethical practices which would push their prices up.


What about waterproofing?

Besides being made from recycled fabrics, we ensure that all our jackets and bags have a high degree of water repellency, because making sure you have everything you need (including a hood to keep you dry when you get caught in the rain!) is one of our core values.

This entails the use of a water-repellant (WR) agent that is used to coat the fabric. Even some recycled fabrics are coated in WR agents that have huge negative impacts on the environment. PFCs (per and poly-fluorinated chemicals) are man-made chemicals used in water and stain repellent coatings and membranes and are not found anywhere in nature.

Until fairly recently there were very few alternatives. It has become clear, however, that PFCs are very harmful to the environment, and whilst there are many sources of PFCs within the clothing sector, half of the most hazardous ones are used for weatherproof clothing.

Every time we wash apparel that is PFC-treated, the process removes the chemicals and they end up going down the drain. PFCs are not filtered out by municipal waste treatment plants, which is why we find PFCs in lakes, rivers and oceans. Once released into the environment they remain there for a very long time and are widely dispersed. Gross, right? It gets worse… 

We also find PFCs in our blood; they don’t only negatively affect the environment, but also affect us when we wear clothing coated in them. Because one of these PFCs called C6 is not currently banned, you will find this toxin in most sports apparel, hiking jackets, and carpets. The good news is that Europe is currently considering a German-led proposal to restrict C6 PFCs from coming onto the market.

At Culthread, we have been busy working on developing all our materials, insulation and fittings over the past year. Our newest collection will be made from shell and lining fabric that is 100% recycled and sourced in Vietnam to reduce our transport footprint. It will also have a C0 coating for water repellency – which means a high level of water repellency, without any PFCs, or C0.

Our new custom-made ePET colours are eternal stone, earth brown, planet green and cosmic black, and we are very excited about our 2022 collections.

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