Alternative stretch fabrics: what sustainable options to supplant elastane?

While elastane is often indispensable in sports to increase the capacity and fluidity of movement, it has also made its mark in everyday life, thanks to the comfort it provides. Conventional elastane, derived from fossil resources, is the most commonly used stretch fabric, but when it comes to elasticity, there are several possibilities. Here is an overview of the sustainable options available.

A few examples of mechanical stretch materials

Several types of yarn and weave offer intrinsic stretch qualities – they are known as mechanical stretch materials.

Synthetic stretchy fabric

As far as natural materials are concerned, wools have natural elasticity, thanks to the curly nature of their fiber, providing excellent bounce in fabrics. Twisted-spun cottons have a beautiful stretch quality, thanks to several threads twisted together to provide strength and stretch.

Crepe yarns have a very strong twist, and BFlex yarns also have a yarn structure that enables them to develop excellent mechanical elasticity from any type of fiber. Crepe weaves, on the other hand, have a specific weave, which creates an irregular effect and great elasticity.    

Some synthetics are also inherently stretchable. Polyester, for example, has good elasticity, and its recycled version provides an alternative to elastane to make sustainable fabrics more comfortable. 

Although less stretchy than elastane, some fibers are interesting when the product is considered in its entire life cycle. Polyester-type polymers, such as PTT and elastomultiester, are elastofibers with good elasticity, due to their thermomechanical treatment during manufacture, that modifies the filament into a “spring”. They should therefore be used in conjunction with polyester as the main fiber, for a polyester-type single-material composition that facilitates end-of-life recycling.

Introducing new generation elastane

For several seasons now, developments in elastane designed for improved environmental performance have been multiplying.

Recycled elastanes, are more and more frequently found, and can contain up to 60% of reclaimed production waste, providing stretch properties equivalent to conventional elastanes.

Global Recycled Standard-certified Roica™ EF is a recycled elastane filament containing 58% production waste. LYCRA® T400® EcoMade fiber is composed of 50% recycled PET and 18% plant-based materials. It offers moderate stretch, ideal for everyday garments.

Biobased elastanes also offer new opportunities for minimising the use of fossil resources.

They are formulated with a proportion of biobased content, including castor oil or corn – Creora®, for example, is a type of elastane developed with 30% biobased content from corn. These biomass-derived elastanes have stretch properties equivalent to conventional elastanes.

Biodegradable elastanes are innovations designed to offer accelerated biodegradability and decompose faster than their conventional equivalents, without leaving harmful substances in the environment. To support these properties, they must comply with current standards for biodegradability testing in freshwater, sea or soil.

Roica™ V550 is an elastane with optimised biodegradability. The yarn is able to break down faster in microbiologically active soil, and does not release toxic substances into the environment. It is also Cradle to Cradle Material Health Gold certified.

Communication on the biodegradability of a finished product is regulated in Europe. For more information, read our article on biobased synthetics.

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