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Peak Performance free of PFAS by 2022

As a manufacturer of activewear, Peak Performance is highly familiar with fluorocarbons – both their unrivalled water repellency and the adverse impact they have on health and the environment. In 2016, Peak Performance made the decision to completely eliminate fluorocarbons (also referred to as PFAS chemicals) from their range of products within 6 years. Åsa Andersson, Sustainability and Quality Manager at Peak Performance, tells us more about how the company is achieving this goal.

“How many of our products actually contain fluorocarbons?” This is the question that got everything started four years ago, when Åsa Andersson and her colleagues at Peak Performance formulated a plan for phasing out fluorocarbons from their products.  They subsequently discovered that as much as 45 percent of the range had a water-repellent coating and that a large proportion of these contained fluorocarbons. The goal they set was for the company to be completely free of fluorocarbons by 2022. Up to now, the use of fluorocarbons has been phased out by 85 percent.

Åsa Andersson Peak Performance

‘Unnecessary’ use addressed first

The phasing out began with the immediate replacement of materials containing non-essential chemicals, such as lining fabric and down fill. Next came the more complex work: finding substitutes for, among others things, the water-repellent coating on many of the products.

"To attain similar water repellency without fluorocarbons, each material needs to be evaluated individually, explains Åsa Andersson. “A potential substitute may work excellently for a certain design comprising materials with a certain type of fibre, but not at all for another product. But thanks to good dialogue with our supplier of water-repellent coatings, we were able to identify solutions for the majority of our products.”

Demand increasing for sustainable products

Although the task to remove fluorocarbons from the products was demanding, Åsa Andersson and Peak Performance were determined.

“At Peak Performance, chemical substitution has always been an important issue. We want to do right by the environment, our producers and our customers,” says Andersson. “But we are also seeing increased demand for products free from hazardous chemicals, primarily in the Nordic countries.”

Support from the Swedish Chemicals Group

Just over a decade ago, Peak Performance became a member of the Swedish Chemicals Group, a network operated by RISE with the aim of disseminating knowledge about chemicals and environmental issues amongst its members in the textile and electronics industries.

“Few textile and clothing companies are able to employ in-house chemists, which means the Chemicals Group provides invaluable knowledge,” says Andersson.

Based on the recommendations of the Chemicals Group and current legislation in the different markets in which Peak Performance operates, the company has formulated a list of chemicals, the Peak Performance Restricted Substance List, which is updated every year. The list contains information about all the chemicals that the company wants to restrict the use of in production and serves as a basis for dialogue with suppliers.

Process based on risk analysis

To support the chemicals list, Peak Performance has also implemented a chemical process. The first step in the process involves the company carrying out a full risk analysis of production in order to identify elements that are assumed to adversely affect the level of chemicals in the final product. It may concern large production volumes, i.e. materials used in several different products, or products suspected of containing hazardous chemicals.

“After we have identified the high-risk materials, we test for the presence of the chemicals on our list,” explains Åsa Andersson. “We have a long history of testing for hazardous chemicals, and our suppliers know that there’s no way to get around this.

“We also meet with our suppliers on a regular basis to discuss chemical-related issues and learn more about substitution together. It’s important for us that we and our suppliers are on the same page.”

3 tips for companies to begin phasing out hazardous chemicals

Åsa Andersson at Peak Performance offers her top 3 tips for companies looking to start working with substitution.

  1. Find a partner for the work involved with substitution. The textile industry, in particular, employs very few chemists, so ensure that you have recourse to external expertise, otherwise it may be difficult to access the latest research in the field.
  2. Draw up a list of the chemicals you want to replace in your production. This will make it much easier to establish a strategy and to engage in more productive dialogue with your suppliers. Prepared lists are available which you can use or copy directly.
  3. Ensure that you have a clear control process so that the chemicals list is not just a document but something that is complied with throughout the production chain.

FACTS FLUOROCARBONS

Fluorocarbons, or PFAS chemicals, are a group of approximately 4,500 chemicals used in several different fields for their superior water- and dirt-repellent properties. However, the chemicals have been shown to be harmful to both the environment and human health since they degrade extremely slowly and therefore accumulate in the body. Moreover, certain substances have been shown to be carcinogenic in animal studies.

Anna Jacobs

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Anna Jacobs

Centrumledare för substitutionscentrum

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