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BALTIMORE – Sportswear company Under Armour has developed what it claims is a more sustainable alternative to elastane. The business worked with specialty materials company Celanese Corporation on the new stretch fabric, called Neolast. It is claimed the new material offers the performance of elastane while mitigating the huge recycling challenges elastane poses.

Elastane is an elastic fibre that gives apparel stretch and is commonly called spandex. Under Armour claims this new alternative “could unlock the potential for end users to recycle performance stretch fabrics, a legacy aspect that has yet to be solved in the pursuit of circular manufacturing.”

The thinking here is that elastane is a huge barrier to textile-textile recycling. It is viewed as an ‘impurity’ by recyclers, although some of the novel recycling tech companies such as Renewcell claim to be able to handle feedstock containing low levels of elastane.

From a performance perspective, it is claimed Neolast fibres features the stretch, durability, comfort, and improved wicking expected from elite performance fabrics.

The fibres are produced using what the Under Armour describes as a proprietary, “solvent-free melt-extrusion process, eliminating potentially hazardous chemicals typically used to create stretch fabrics made with elastane.” The company also says it is produced using “recyclable elastoester polymers,” although it has not said more than this at the time of writing.

“Working with a leading global brand like Under Armour to elevate the performance and sustainability benefits of their products is just the first of many great things we hope to accomplish with this innovative Neolast technology,” said Tom Kelly, senior vice president, engineered materials at Celanese. “Celanese is proud to bring its polymer expertise and technical know-how to help manufacture Neolast fibres for textiles and fabrics to meet the specific needs of our customers and other value chain partners. We are just beginning to unlock its potential and look forward to what’s ahead as we explore other opportunities with end users.”

“This new Neolast fibre represents a transformative innovation for Under Armour and the textile industry, embodying our commitment to building better products for our consumers and planet,” added Kyle Blakely, senior vice president of Innovation at Under Armour.

We have contacted Under Armour with further questions.

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