Sustainability woven into every decision
How specialist materials manufacturer Texon is using a suite of innovations to ensure that its products are as environmentally friendly as possible.
Working with many of the world’s leading footwear brand owners, Texon is probably best known for producing functional structural components including heel counters, box toes (toe puffs) and insoles. These items are integral to a shoe’s shape, comfort, support and fit, but are largely hidden from sight. Less well-known is that the company is also a maker of functional and aesthetical textiles for shoe uppers, performance garments and fashion accessories.
A key industry player in the design and manufacture of shoemaking materials, Texon’s history stretches back more than 70 years. Originally a producer of cellulose insoles, the business today uses its cellulose and nonwoven know-how to make more than 30 million square metres of material, which is used in an estimated 740 million pairs of shoes. In addition to its broad portfolio of components for footwear, it also produces high-performance materials for special fabrics and fashion, including water-resistant breathable composites and fabrics for durability and protection. These materials are used in footwear uppers and in technical garments, as well as to create bags, cases, labels, book bindings and even furniture.
Being conscious of the sustainability challenges facing the fashion and footwear industry, Texon has always sought to make its products as environmentally friendly as they can be. In 1992, it became the first to launch a sustainable insole, and this project set the tone for its future work. Over the last three decades, the company has reportedly made giant strides in sustainability – creating more materials from bio-based content and taking steps to proactively improve the efficiency of its global manufacturing sites and supply chains. Recognising that there is always more that can be done, the business has now set itself a challenging ambition: zero waste by 2025.
Explaining more, Boyd Mulder, Texon’s director of new product development and innovation (NPDI), marketing and sustainability, commented: “We are firm believers that approaching sustainability holistically will allow us to address our customer needs, do what’s right for people and the planet, and still meet our financial goals. This is the basis of our recently-launched ‘zerofootprint’ strategy. As a material producer to the footwear industry, we’ve always seen it as our responsibility to minimise our impact on the environment. Our structural component materials are mostly invisible to consumers, but it’s still crucial that all of the processes surrounding their sourcing, manufacture and distribution are as sustainable as possible. More than ever, consumers want to know where products come from, what they contain, and how they have been made. As a company, we see sustainability not only as a responsibility but also a business opportunity.”
The drive to make a sustainable difference
Using its 2015 figures as a baseline, by 2025, Texon wants to have reduced its carbon footprint by 50 per cent, cut its use of virgin materials by 50 per cent, ensured that 90 per cent of its waste is recyclable or reusable, and reduced its water use and wastewater by 20 per cent.
How does Texon say it will achieve its environmental ambitions? When it comes to reducing its carbon footprint, the company is considering ways to improve its manufacturing processes, exploring the feasibility of renewable energy tariffs and green energy sources. It is also assessing how its products are transported, with the aim of using ocean shipping instead of air freight. In addition, it runs a ‘take-back’ service – collecting scraps and offcuts from customers and putting them back into the manufacturing process – a move that is said to cut the consumption of virgin materials.
Many Texon products are already reported to contain up to 85 per cent recycled content – but the company claims that it wants to go further. Actively investigating the power of plants to create pioneering materials, the Texon team is engaged in creating brand-new bio-based products and reengineering existing technologies to use more plant-based materials. Current research includes the use of natural sources and organic waste streams to create new materials and reduce dependence on virgin petroleum-based materials. In the last year, it also invested €1 million (£909,000) in a new pulper machine to recycle more fibres from toilet roll ends, napkins and other sources.
The company is innovating to send as little waste as possible to landfill, which means developing products with circularity in mind. ‘Texon Reform’ – introduced in 1998 – is marketed as the world’s first 100 per cent recyclable, closed loop heel counter product. All customer waste from this product can be collected and reused to make more of the same product. As the business accelerates its efforts to make more products based on circular economic principles, it is also reportedly expanding its delivery infrastructure to give greater control over the waste generated by its products. New relationships with waste convertors are also being built.
Reducing water consumption is another of Texon’s sustainability goals. In the last five years, water withdrawals from local sources have been reduced by an average of 30 per cent. As well as trying to reuse as much water as possible, the company is committed to returning water to its source in a cleaner form than it was taken by enhancing its wastewater treatment methods.
With so many sustainability initiatives ongoing within Texon, there is a strong pipeline of new environmentally-friendly products being manufactured. Recent structural component innovations include ‘Texon Halo’ and ‘Texon Ecoline’. The former is a heel counter material based on a minimum of 50 per cent recycled content, and Texon Ecoline is an insole material that combines strength and sustainability. Made with 85 per cent recycled polyester (rPET), Texon Ecoline is said to be 100 per cent recyclable. It is produced via a special fusion-bonded process that enhances the internal bonding structure of the material’s fibres, which are randomly arranged. This manufacturing method reportedly uses up to 50 per cent less energy per square metre of material while consuming less water and chemicals.
Alongside its stated zero waste goals and product development programme, the business is continually looking for additional ways to have a positive impact on the planet. This includes working in close collaboration with industry bodies and test houses – including SATRA – to revise and modernise test methods and ensure that the highest material quality control standards are maintained.
“At Texon, we’re focusing on what’s important long-term – and that’s sustainability,” added Mr Mulder. “We are proud to be the first company in our sphere to commit to a science-based holistic sustainability strategy, and we are actively looking for customers that want to join us on this journey and reduce their own environmental footprint.”
This article was originally published on page 20 of the January 2021 issue of SATRA Bulletin.