Begin by asking your suppliers for the data on the chemistry being used. There is a lot of published data of fluorinated chemistries. From a practical perspective, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has developed a list of questions a brand can ask suppliers, no chemistry knowledge required; and the Chemicals Management Module that lays out the knowledge and cooperative actions needed through the global supply chain (retailer-brand-supplier-chemical supplier) to better manage chemicals. Supply chain collaboration is flourishing between brands, suppliers and chemical suppliers to align on what to know and ask for via groups like the OIA, Zero-Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), Sustainable Apparel Coalition and European Outdoor Group (EOG).
Emissions may occur along the entire life-cycle, principally to water, also to air. At manufacturing, during consumer use (e.g., washing) and upon disposal (landfill, incineration). What gets emitted and what it can turn in to is what the focus is on.
What are the most promising types of material that are water repellent yet biodegradable? Following on Anna's question, is there a biomimetic approach to considering materials that satisfy these two goals?
Hi Monica! Brands' viewpoints have absolutely changed over the past 7 years or so. Non-Fluorinated DWR has been around for a long time, but it took global legislative changes (ie chemistries banned in countries) and the expose of long term health studies to "right the ship" of our industry and others. Now, you see extreme focus on PFC's and their minimization/elimination, even outside of the PFOA/PFOS families. In general, brands are taking a more prescribed approach to performance, chemistry, and the specifications they are willing to accept.
As far as essential use goes, the Government requires oil repellency for most of its military clothing in the form of resistance to weapons lube, jet fuel, DEET and other challenges. Additionally, the Oil and Gas industry requires oil repellency in its applications.
Good question as the industry and researchers are still striving to find non-fluorinated alternatives, Fluorinated chemistries have been traditionally used due to their un-rivalled functionality in repellency and durability. This is due to the chemical structure of fluorine and carbon. Non-fluorinated alternatives are being researched but have been shown to give good water repellency. Research and development is going on in both companies and academic labs. These are progressively working together.
The challenge is aligning the interests of the supply chain players that are necessary to implement new technologies. Communication is a big challenge across global supply chains. Engaging with key decision makers at each step is really helpful. Identifying them isn't. Motivations vary and have to be understood and addressed
Essential uses mean where the water repellent property is a core property of the article e.g for professional use where water protection is essential.
A non essential use is where the water repellent property is not in balance with the actual normal use of the article.
The decision lies with the Brand who has to know and understand what the consumer wants and needs and how to translate that in to a product.