Monday, May 20, 2024

Under Armour Debuts a Recyclable Spandex Alternative: ‘a Transformative Innovation’


Under Armour says it has developed an alternative to spandex that’s easier to recycle and gentler on the planet.

Celanese Corporation, a global leader in specialty materials and chemicals, has joined forces with athletic apparel giant Under Armour to introduce an innovative fiber named Neolast. The companies say the development will revolutionize performance stretch fabrics by offering an alternative to elastane, commonly known as spandex, which is currently prevalent in the industry.

Neolast fibers are crafted to provide the same level of stretch, durability, comfort, and moisture-wicking as traditional performance fabrics, but with a key focus on sustainability, particularly in terms of recyclability. The fibers are created using a unique solvent-free melt-extrusion process, avoiding the hazardous chemicals typically employed in producing elastane-based stretch fabrics.

The new Neolast material from Celanese and Under Armour
Celanese and Under Armour’s Neolast fiber is a sustainable alternative to spandex | Photo courtesy Celanese Corp.

This initiative marks a significant step towards addressing the long-standing challenge of recycling blended fabrics that contain elastane. Using recyclable elastoester polymers, Neolast fibers are designed to be more compatible with future recycling systems and infrastructure, aligning with the shift towards a circular economy.

“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,” Tom Kelly, Senior Vice President, Engineered Materials at Celanese, said in a statement. He emphasized Celanese’s commitment to leveraging its polymer expertise to meet the specific needs of its customers and partners.

Kyle Blakely, Senior Vice President of Innovation at Under Armour, highlighted the transformative nature of the Neolast fiber for both the company and the textile industry at large. “This new Neolast fiber represents a transformative innovation for Under Armour and the textile industry, embodying our commitment to building better products for our consumers and planet,” he said.

Under Armour's Neolast filament yarn
Rolls of finished filament yarn in the Fiber Spinning Lab at The Nonwovens Institute, NC State University. | Photo courtesy Under Armour

Blakely also noted the potential of this innovation to contribute to a sustainable future, aligning with Under Armour’s commitment to performance-driven sustainability.

Beyond sustainability, Neolast fibers offer enhanced production precision, allowing for more control over power-stretch levels and the ability to engineer fibers to meet various fabric specifications. This breakthrough is expected to broaden the spectrum of fabric properties that can be achieved.

While Celanese is initially exploring applications of Neolast fibers with Under Armour, it plans to make this innovation available to the wider apparel industry. This move could significantly reduce the industry’s reliance on elastane, paving the way for more sustainable fabric production.

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