Transforming Ocean Plastic into Office Furniture Fabrics
In partnership with Duvaltex, Steelcase launches Intersection, a line of contract textiles made from salvaged marine plastic.
Available as an exclusive Steelcase screen and panel fabric, Intersection was co-created by Duvaltex and Steelcase in collaboration with the SEAQUAL Initiative, which transforms marine waste into recycled products with full traceability. The second product released under the fabric manufacturer’s CLEAN IMPACT TEXTILES™ line; Intersection follows up on their Neocon Award winning biodegradable fabric from 2019.
“As a sustainability pioneer, we have a responsibility to inspire our industry to preserve our planet for future generations,” says CEO Alain Duval, pointing out the company’s 25-year legacy in the world of sustainable textiles. The company backs up its status as a pioneer with a history of working with recycled materials and non-toxic fabric dyes, cleaners, and finishes since the 1990s.
Duvaltex’s CLEAN IMPACT TEXTILES™ regroups the company’s sustainability focused technologies under a strong and unique brand. The objective is to focus on reusing discarded materials and reducing waste, while inspiring designers and the industry to preserve the planet for future generations.
“Since 1995, we’ve been doing recycled content and it was a big global evolution at the time. As circular economy models grew in recent years and different sustainable initiative were commercial, no one was doing anything about ocean plastic pollution. We seized the opportunity to take action,” explains Jean Pierre Simard, vice president of marketing at Duvaltex.
Intersection is a scaled-up response to the global plastic problem. By taking something as harmful to the environment as marine plastic and using it in place of newly extracted resources, Intersection reduces waste and prevents petroleum extraction, having an even greater impact. The SEAQUAL organization cleans local beaches of all kinds of waste as well as retrieving plastic from the ocean. “When they clean it, they come up with a lot of different things, metals, real waste, and different categories of plastics. It’s a part of the SEAQUAL Initiative,” explains Simard. “We pull the out polyester for our application, transforming it into industry-leading fabrics in terms of design and performance, while contributing to the collective sustainability effort.”
Similar initiatives exist, but most are focused on recovering fishing nets made of nylon, Intersection is made of recycled PET that is transformed into polyester. The reason this is uncommon, explains Simard is that upcycling polyester is quite difficult. Most recycled polyester is made from relatively clean stock, such as recycled plastic bottles. In order to ensure a high-quality product that meets Duvaltex’s performance standards, the marine plastic must be carefully sorted, cleaned of any contaminants, and then mixed with a clean post-consumer recycled PET. “To do downcycling is easy, but upcycling, is more difficult and that’s been the challenge we achieved,” remarks Simard.
He credits the brand’s experience with developing sustainable products with the success, “We have more than 25 years of experience in managing new yarn technology, implementing innovative advanced materials and sustainable manufacturing practices.”
In Steelcase, Duvaltex has found a partner that’s also committed to putting environmental consciousness into its products. The two companies have been collaborators for 25 years: Together, they launched an industry first Ccradle-to-CradleTM certified Gold fabrics in 2005, a Closed Loop program in 2011 (Loop to Loop available by Designtex/Steelcase) and The New Black collection with Steelcase in 2017. Their latest collaboration is more than a statement, it’s a real product that’s meant to be used. Currently offered in 17 colors throughout the Steelcase surface materials distribution network, Intersection can be specified on over 50 Steelcase screen and panel products.
“The objective with Intersection was to create change,” says Simard. “We must clean our planet, reduce the impact on the environment by innovating our resource management practices, and our manufacturing technologies to transform our industry into a functional circular economy.”