We use recycled spandex made from pre-consumer waste fibers.
Spandex is a critical material in our products. Also known as elastane or Lycra, spandex is an elastic polymer (a type of plastic derived from petroleum) that makes garments and trims stretchy, which allows for them to be form fitting, and provide freedom of movement. Unfortunately, extracting and refining the petroleum used to make this material pollutes land, air and water and contributes to global warming.
We started experimenting with pre-consumer recycled versions of spandex in recent years and we first added recycled spandex into our line in 2020. It has the same stretch properties of virgin spandex fiber and it allows us to make use of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
There is little to no existing infrastructure for recycling spandex, making getting rid of spandex waste a difficult nut to crack. Waste spandex is created as a by-product in the manufacturing process. The waste is collected from production lines and then reincorporated into the raw material production stage. By using recycled spandex, waste is diverted from landfill and reused.
For the spring 2021 season, we’re using recycled spandex in our wetsuits, our Happy Hike shorts, the Altvia Alpine Pants and the W’s Pack Out Hike Tights.
We are moving away from using virgin petroleum sources for spandex, and recycled spandex helps us achieve this goal. Our fabric lab is also testing new polymers that cause less environmental harm and our material developers are constantly looking at spandex alternatives and fabric constructions that offer functional stretch and are easy to recycle.