Life Cycle Assessment Study Shows: DWR Performance During Use Phase Can Significantly Impact Its Environmental Profile
- Consumer care in order to maintain repellency performance influences environmental impacts far more than choice of chemistry
- Current non-fluorinated DWR fails to meet backpackers’ expectations; outerwear quickly saturates with water causing increased garment weight and wearer discomfort
Elkton, MD, January 4, 2016 – W. L. Gore & Associates (Gore) continues its scientific research and has published Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) data focusing on durable water repellent treatment (DWR) for functional outerwear.
This is the third LCA that Gore has published since 2013. It was conducted with input from third party experts – including the Institute for Environmental Research, Vashon Island, Washington, USA. LCA is the global standard for assessing the total environmental impact of a finished product and takes into account all aspects of a product’s ecological footprint including resource and energy consumption, emissions to air, water and land, as well as health & ecosystems, and more. Gore Fabrics has been using LCAs since 1992. Gore conducted this LCA study to help guide future choices of DWR technologies. The study compared the environmental impacts, such as potential toxicity measured in equivalents of 1,4-Dichlorobenzene (kg DCB eq.), of different DWR technologies: a non-fluorinated DWR (hydrocarbon based) and a short-chain polymer DWR currently used by Gore.
The assessment of GORE-TEX jackets, with different DWR treatments, in backpacking and high aerobic activities showed that the currently available non-fluorinated DWR offering does not offer a better environmental profile than Gore’s current fluorocarbon based DWR treatment. The study revealed that the lower performance of non-fluorinated DWR treatments is the single biggest driver for the jacket’s environmental impact. The reason: In an attempt to maintain a satisfactory level of water repellency backpackers would have to wash and re-apply DWR treatments more frequently on garments with non-fluorinated DWR’s compared with Gore’s current short-chain polymer DWR. A well functioning DWR treatment is crucial to prevent the jacket from saturating with water, which increases weight and discomfort and could lead to reduced concentration and individual performance.
Field test of DWR treatments
Gore put jackets treated with different DWR treatments through outdoor backpacking field tests which informed the usage scenario in the LCA study. In real life situations, the currently available non-fluorinated DWR treatment exhibited clear shortcomings: after just a short period of use, it was observed that it no longer provided effective water repellency. A situation that would likely lead to continued user dissatisfaction or attempting to restore water repellency by washing and re-apply DWR treatments more frequently. The LCA incorporated this extra care to probe these use phase impacts, which highlights the importance of durable performance. “This might not be realistic scenario for many consumers, but accepting loss of water repellency will likely result in disappointment and premature replacement of a jacket”, says Bernhard Kiehl, Gore Fabrics Sustainability Leader. “Frequently replacing a jacket comes with similarly negative environmental impacts since the production of a new jacket uses up additional resources like chemicals, energy and water, etc.”
Bernhard Kiehl concludes: “As a technology leadership company we are committed to continually reducing the environmental footprint of our products and acting as a role model for a more responsible outdoor industry. To this end we will continue to invest in research and apply sound science to drive future innovations.”
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a global standardized tool (DIN EN ISO 14040) to measure the environmental footprint of a finished product. LCA assesses the whole process with a “cradle to grave” approach – from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance to disposal or recycling.
Read more about Life Cycle Assessment at gore-tex.com/responsibility.
 DCB equivalent is used to quantify potential toxicity the same way that CO2 equivalent is used to quantify greenhouse gas emissions.
About W.L. Gore & Associates:
Gore is a technology-driven company focused on discovery and product innovation. Well known for waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® fabric, the company’s portfolio includes everything from high-performance fabrics and implantable medical devices to industrial manufacturing components and aerospace electronics. Headquartered in the United States, Gore posts annual sales of more than $3 billion and employs more than 10,000 associates with manufacturing facilities in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and China, and sales offices around the world.
In Europe, Gore started its first business operations only a few years after the Enterprise’s founding in 1958. Gore now has locations–sales offices as well as production facilities–in the key European countries dedicated to serving the markets of all of Gore’s product divisions. Gore is one of a select few companies to appear on all of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For” lists since the rankings debuted in 1984. For several years now, Gore has also been voted one of the best workplaces in Europe and has been ranked on top workplace lists in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Sweden. Learn more at gore.com.
W. L. Gore & Associates
295 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD
Telephone: (302) 292-4663