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ESG

Hyosung’s recycled yarn from PET bottles lures fashion brands

Oct 13, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

Hyosung TNC Corp. is experimenting with something that may seem strange in the eyes of some: making recycled yarn from discarded PET bottles, in a process that is more expensive than producing chemical fibers with polyester extracted from crude oil.

Workers at Hyosung’s main plant in Gumi, South Kyongsang Province, are busy checking the quality of their recycled polyester, regen, churning out of mills as the heat from the machines boosts indoor temperatures to as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

“The process is tricky and the defect rates are higher,” said Park Yong-joon, in charge of Hyosung’s smart textile team. “But we do this because it will be more profitable.”

He said recycled regen polyester sells at prices one-a-half times higher than existing products.

Workers at Hyosung TNC's Gumi plant check the quality of recycled regen polyester

ESG MATTERS IN FASHION MARKET

Hyosung TNC, the world’s largest spandex yarn provider, is accelerating its entry into the global eco-friendly market as demand for such products rises among businesses looking to boost their enterprise value as a “green company.”

Amid growing calls for corporate responsibility concerning environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters, major companies around the world are ramping up investments in ESG-related business.

With ESG investments becoming an increasing trend, particularly in Europe, financial institutions such as the National Pension Service are using ESG involvement as a core indicator in corporate investment evaluation.

The European Union plans to introduce the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism next year. When the system goes into effect, a carbon tax will be imposed on imported goods whose manufacturing emits a large amount of greenhouse gas.

“ESG is a global standard that affects every aspect of business administration, including orders, product delivery, investment and funding. Any company that neglects the ESG issue will be put out of business,” said Moon Doo-cheol, dean of Yonsei University’s Global Learning Institute.

Hyosung TNC’s regen is South Korea’s first eco-friendly polyester yarn made of substances extracted from waste PET bottles. Made of 100% recycled material, regen dramatically reduces landfill waste and CO2 emissions.

In recognition of its outstanding environmental performance, regen has acquired the world’s first Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certification in the polyester recycle textiles sector from Control Union, a global certification organization based in the Netherlands.

RECYCLED YARN LURES GLOBAL FASHION BRANDS 

Hyosung TNC is also attracting interest from global fashion and outdoor brands including Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) and German multinational sports brand Adidas AG.

“Chinese companies, armed with price competitiveness, are leaders in producing polyester and nylon yarns. But when it comes to eco-friendly yarns, it’s a different story,” said Hyosung TNC’s Park.

Despite the rapid growth of the global environment-friendly fashion market, traditionally the PET bottles collected in Korea are recycled for use as packing materials rather than clothing production.

Since recycled PET chips with any impurities cannot be used for clothes, Hyosung has imported pure raw materials from countries such as Japan and Taiwan. But it is now turning to local suppliers.

In April, Hyosung signed an MOU with the Jeju provincial government to buy recycled PET bottles deemed pure enough to use as raw materials.

Local eco-fashion brand Pleatsmama Co. is already making clothes and bags solely made of Hyosung TNC's recycled regen polyester.

Fabric made of Hyosung TNC's recycled regen polyester

ECO PRODUCTS OFFER BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

“If you make quality eco-friendly products with reliable recycled material, you can sell it at a premium to fashion retailers and outdoor clothes makers. The new global ESG standard will offer a business opportunity for Korean companies,” said a textile industry official.

The global eco-friendly fiber market is growing at an average of approximately 10% a year, according to research and consulting firm Grand View Research. The market is expected to reach around $70 billion by 2025.

“Customers have started demanding that businesses have a high level of awareness of and responsibility to the environment,” said Hyosung Group Chairman Cho Hyun-joon. “Based on the Green Management Vision 2030, Hyosung will continue expanding products, materials and business models in line with eco-friendly values.”

Write to Jae-Kwang Ahn and Hyung-Suk Song at ahnjk@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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