Swedish company has the solution to one of the major environmental problems
Industry after industry is changing fundamentally in the face of environmental challenges. But the textile industry, which the UN estimates has a greater climate impact than aviation and shipping combined, has so far not introduced any major reforms. But a Swedish company, Polygiene, has technology that fundamentally can change the business.
Today we buy on average 60 per cent more garments and discard them almost twice as fast as we did fifteen years ago. Sweden’s Polygiene is increasing the lifespan of garments through textile treatments that hinder growth of bacteria – which contributes to fewer washes, an increased life expectancy and a climate-positive textile industry.
Recently IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute released a report that calculated the environmental impact of various types of waste. This showed that the highest carbon dioxide savings to be made involved work to prevent textile waste and electrical and electronic waste. Saving one kg of textile waste is equivalent to 200 km of driving.
Climate-positive life cycle
Polygiene sees the entire life cycle becoming more climate positive as a result of its solution. An external study has concluded that if you skip just one wash in ten with a Polygiene treated garment, it gives a reduced environmental impact. In an ordinary household with four people, you save the same CO2 emissions over time as you would when switching from a regular car to a hybrid car. And that’s just calculating the benefit of the wash; if the garment is used for longer before it is recycled or disposed of, the impact is even greater.
“Polygiene’s vision is to transform clothing from consumable goods to durable goods. No one buys a car and then scraps it when they are tired of the colour. Why should clothes be any different?” says Ulrika Björk, CEO at Polygiene.
“We have to move from ‘fast fashion’ where we buy more and more clothes and throw them away faster and faster. We see a future where you buy fewer clothes that are of a high quality and sustainably produced, spending a bit more on each garment. We would then get clothing that lasts longer and can be used by others when you yourself tire of it,” says Mats Georgson, CMO at Polygiene.
Polygiene does not manufacture clothes itself but instead works with well-known brands such as Adidas, Patagonia and Tommy Hilfiger. This enables it to reach out to consumers more quickly and effectively.
“A necessary solution”
“The underlying technology has to be as green as possible,” explains Mats Georgson. There are several products that conceal odours and delay the problem of bacteria that are constantly multiplying. Polygiene wants to get to the root of the problem instead, using methods that are gentle on people and the environment. For example, they have recently launched Polygiene Odor Crunch, a completely ‘green’ technology that breaks down molecules that produce bad odours so your nose cannot perceive them. The only by-products are water and carbon dioxide. They were rewarded for their efforts with the 2019 Sustainability Award from the Scandinavian Outdoor Group.
“At the same time we must be realistic about what is required. Bacteria multiply exponentially, so whatever you do to hide the smell that comes from their ever-increasing number, you will never win in the long run. By preventing their growth, you prevent the root cause of the smell. Being able to rely on the technology is a prerequisite for changing consumer behaviour. We need to get consumers on board to make the textile industry more sustainable – then we have a solution to a huge problem,” concludes Mats.
Published in September 2019 in the Swedish business publication “Veckans Affärer”