Study Indicates INSQIN's PU Is a More Sustainable Option

In a recent life-cycle assessment (LCA), Covestro’s INSQIN® proves to be a more sustainable way to produce coated textiles than conventional technologies.

The study found that using waterborne polyurethane (PU) for the manufacture of PU synthetic, a key material in the textiles sector, substantially reduces the carbon footprint of the material, as compared to conventional, solvent-based technology. The assessment showed that, from the cradle to material factory gate, the Global Warming Potential for 1,000 square meters of waterborne PU synthetic is 45 percent less than that of solvent-based PU synthetic[1]. An independent third party was engaged to conduct a critical review of the LCA study and results in accordance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards 14040:2006 and ISO 14044:2006.

“The LCA provides an extra layer of assurance in the environmental performance of INSQIN,®" says Nick Smith, Covestro’s global head of textile coatings says. "It shows brands that this technology can help them reach their sustainability targets. Achievements in carbon footprint reduction will be important to not only fashion and sportswear brands, but also the automotive and furniture industries.”

The LCA delivers high-quality data on the environmental benefits of waterborne PU. In addition, the technology offers occupational health and safety benefits, altogether enabling customers to make increasingly informed decisions on PU material sourcing.

The study compared a comprehensive range of parameters to assess the environmental performance of waterborne PU from the extraction of raw materials to coated fabric production, versus that of the conventional technology, which involves the use of the solvent dimethylformamide (DMF).

Reducing carbon footprint and acidification

According to the results of the LCA, 1,000 square meters of PU synthetic made with INSQIN® has a Global Warming Potential of 6,900 kilograms CO2-eq, compared to 12,700 kilograms CO2-eq in the case of solvent-based PU leather.

The impact of this reduction is so significant that if the entire textile industry switched to using Covestro’s waterborne PU technology, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be equivalent to taking every car off the road in Beijing, or in London, Hong Kong and Los Angeles combined.

While INSQIN® itself has a significantly lower carbon footprint than solvent borne counterparts, the detailed study revealed that 85 percentage of the reduction in Global Warming Potential is due to the lower energy consumption of the dry textile coating process that is enabled by the waterborne PU, and that replaces conventional wet processing. In other words, the real benefit of the technology lies in the process changes it makes possible.

Using INSQIN® to coat textiles with PU also has the potential to reduce acidification in our waters and soil by 20 percent, compared to conventional technology.

Reducing water consumption

According to Covestro’s previous internal study, the production of PU synthetics with INSQIN uses 95 percent less process water than PU synthetics produced by  conventional PU. The water savings achieved can have significant social impact on manufacturing countries with water scarcity. If the entire textile industry switched to INSQIN®, enough water would be saved every day to meet the daily water use of nearly 340,000 people in China.

This work demonstrates how innovation in chemicals can bring far-reaching benefits by enabling change in process technologies to bring about significant progress in overall innovation in the textiles industry.

Dr. Lydia Simon, Global Sustainability Manager for Coatings, Adhesives & Specialties at Covestro, says: “Life cycle thinking is crucial if we are to overcome key challenges of the future and push sustainability.  Life Cycle studies help to quantify the potential of technologies to reduce environmental impacts and thus contribute to more sustainable solutions.