We’re keen to let you know there is more to the topic of ecological sustainability than meets the eye!
At Materialised we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously, and we want to tell you why we do what we do:
- Why we select to use polyester as a fibre
- Why we choose to transfer print
- Why the greenest thing we can do is to make absolutely sure the fabric we supply is suitable for its purpose (early replacement isn’t green).
- What goes out our chimney
- What we do to recycle
Our philosophy is to “tread lightly on the planet”. We are constantly working on reducing waste of precious resources and eliminating pollution.
Our Policy on Ecological Sustainability
Everything we do impacts upon our planet. Materialised takes this responsibility very seriously and strives to see that our materials, processes and recycling activities leave the smallest possible ecological footprint. Our approach is to look at − and objectively measure − the overall ecological toll. That evaluation goes all the way downstream from the source of raw materials, to initial production, to life extension and all the way to disposal at the end of the product’s life.
This is why Materialised has chosen to specialise in the use of flame retardant modified polyesters: they perform better, last longer, are less expensive and we believe they have a lighter impact upon our environment, for our specific market segment.
Safety, of course, is the most important criterion. When printing, we employ a dye sublimation process that does not interfere with the polyester material’s ability to retard flame and is significantly gentler on our planet than other printing methods. Further, when exposed to flame, modified polyester gives off far lower levels of toxic fumes than topical flame retardant treated products, and its performance lasts the life of the fabric.
In terms of production and treatment, each class of fibre carries its own ecological cost. Comparisons reveal few unchallengeable winners, especially if one looks at the broader context. For example, at first glance it may seem that a naturally-grown product like cotton has an advantage over a synthetic fibre produced by petro-chemicals and natural gas. However, when one factors in the ‘eco-cost’ of cotton’s very high demand for water (29,000 L/Kg) and insecticides (10 to 18 applications of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, leaving aside the impacts of dyeing and printing) the picture becomes much less clear.
Wool production, too, brings its own set of ecological disadvantages – especially when it is being scoured and dyed. 170,000 litres of water are required to produce 1 Kg of wool and soil compaction, soil erosion and methane emissions need to be factored into the equation.
Popular perception is that polyester and nylon fibres come from a limited and non-renewable source, which is true. However, the quantity of oil used in producing textiles, resins etc., is a negligible proportion of total world consumption, (at most estimate is less than 1%).
Whilst there are some aspects of production that limit one’s ability to significantly reduce the ecological cost of fibre production, impressive strides are continuing to be made in the ways that fibres are processed.
For a start, Materialised deals with fabric and ingredient suppliers who share our commitment to ecological responsibility. These include Trevira, and Avora (fibre producers) and paper suppliers Transfertex and Transprint USA (the latter claims to use less water turning out millions of metres of paper annually, than their staff put into their coffee!).
Our type of dye sublimation printing makes for a lower inventory and hence reduced holding costs, less ‘fashion risk’, etc – and thus, a lower price to the end-user.
During our printing processes, all emissions must first pass through several filtering media, including activated carbon. In this way, we ensure that all we ever vent into the atmosphere is… fresh air.
Both financially and ecologically, the cost of cleaning and maintaining fabrics must be an important consideration when choosing making choices.
The difference can be significant, as the following example shows. Not only are polyester bedspreads 36% less costly to create and last 3.3 times as long compared with equivalent flame-retardant treated cotton spreads, they also require significantly less energy and detergents to wash and dry.
Technically speaking, polyester can be recycled. Because of difficulties, processing, reconstructing, or pulping for reconstituting locally, we look to exporting these potentially useful materials to developing countries, in order to extend their useful life.
Materialised is making real progress in many other areas:
Materialised ensures that all spent paper used in dye sublimation printing is recycled – and even the cardboard tubes the paper is supplied on are recovered wherever practicable, with 10 cents per recovered tube donated to the Sydney Children’s Hospital. Spent tissue paper is passed on to florists to be recycled as wrapping paper, or is pulped for re-use.
Most of our sales and marketing efforts involve the distribution of product samples − and over a year this can amount to a considerable quantity of material, both fabric and board. Our practice is to use and re-use packaging board − and to encourage clients to find charitable applications for unwanted fabric samples.