Decathlon, in its effort to close the loop, has produced swimwear from a new fabric having supple elastic properties that can be recycled back into yarns for new apparel through the stages of collection, shredding, melting, pellet production and spinning.

The three organisations said they were rethinking the issue of recycling with the “Aqua Vision” project. The project is focused on the development of a sportswear item that can be reused within the clothing sector, i.e., can be kept in circulation, and is also long-lasting.

They explained that the challenge was to make swimwear without using elastane in the production process since the filament with high polyurethane content ensures an excellent fit but causes problems in the recycling process.

Elasticity without elastane

For this swimsuit, instead of using elastane, the Lycra Company provided the Lycra T400 EcoMade fibre, which was used in combination with a smart construction to provide the necessary stretch. This stretch solution by Lycra consists of 68% sustainable resources, with 50% of the content coming from recycled plastic and 18% from bio-based resources.

The Lycra Company elaborates that the Lycra T400 EcoMade fibre consists of two components, each of which shrinks differently under heat during finishing. The result of this differential shrinkage is durable elasticity for a long-lasting fit. In addition, this yarn is resistant to chlorine for over 500 hours, making it much more durable than conventional variants.

Arnaud Ruffin, vice president at the Lycra Company for brands and retail, said: “At The Lycra Company, sustainable innovation is at the heart of our vision, and we are proud to partner with Decathlon and Karl Mayer to produce a sustainably sourced, chlorine and wear-durable swimsuit with no performance compromises which can be practically recycled at end of life.”

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Upcycling into ‘high-quality’ warp-knitted fabrics

When processed into a smooth warp knit, Lycra T400 EcoMade fibre can fully realise its performance potential. A two-bar warp knitting machine in gauge E 32 from Karl Mayer was used to produce the textile for the sustainable swimsuit. The textile machinery manufacturer also provided support in the form of its know-how on a technical level.

Michael Kieren from the new business development team at the Karl Mayer Group, added: “We tested whether the sustainable yarn behaves differently during processing than conventional variants. The tests were consistently positive. There were no losses in quality or efficiency.”

He continued: “Recycling within the textile sector also ensures independence from other sources of raw materials for reprocessing. However, in textile-to-textile recycling, colouration must be taken into account as early as the design stage. Light colours are generally easier to recycle. To compensate for colour differences, the fabric becomes darker with each recycling process.”

An example, recycled from swimwear after its first cycle of use, will be presented by the Karl Mayer Group at the Textile and Garment Technology Exhibition (ITMA) this June in Fiera Milano, Italy.

The exhibition under the motto “Rethink. Reduce. Reuse – Close the loop”, shows how waste and resources can be saved by consistently recycling materials.

Last September, Decathlon and apparel retailer H&M Group told the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) they plan to inform consumers about their green claims to reduce the risk of misleading customers.