North Face treks towards ambitious recycled materials goal

Outdoor product company North Face was previously on track to ensure that it used 30 percent recycled material in its products, but has now announced this will rise to 100 percent for all its polyester fabrics during the next 18 months.

As polyester accounts for 80 percent of its fabrics, the company is expecting the switch to have a significant impact on its supply chain, while driving demand for recycled polyester materials.

To achieve its goal, North Face will make use of old plastic bottles to repurpose them into polyester. But the change will require a significant effort — just 7 percent of North Face fabrics were made from recycled materials last year.

"My goal is to match the materials we use to the brand I think the North Face is," said North Face director of materials commercialization Jeff Dorton. "We've decided to put a big stake in the ground and aim to use 100 percent recycled content for all of our polyester fabric by 2016."

He admitted the target could prove challenging for the company. "Close to 80 percent of our fabric is polyester, so this is a huge goal," he said. "It's easier for us to manage a big goal like this, as we can take a win on a single yarn, get a good deal on it and spread it through the entire category. We like to go bold."

The announcement came in the same week that the NFL's Detroit Lions debuted new practice jerseys made from 21 recycled bottles.

According to reports from ESPN, the shirts are not ready to be used in games and are being used to promote a new recycling initiative at the team's stadium.

However, the move mirrors Nike's use of recycled plastic in shirts worn by international soccer teams, which already have been used at the past two World Cups.

Top image of plastic recycling bin by DaveBleasdale via Flickr. This article first appeared at BusinessGreen.