Due to the corona pandemic, this year´s Dornbirn Global Fiber Congress took place as an online event. September 15th-17th, around 96 experts gave lectures covering topics such as Circular Economy & Sustainability, Fiber Innovations, Surface Modification, Apparel & Fashion.
Sustainability as the most important driver for innovation
This year’s Dornbirn-GFC focused on ecological challenges and sustainability. The environmental and marine pollution by plastics, especially microplastic was the topic of several lectures and afterwards discussions. The prolonged degradation of plastics means a great danger to people, animals and the environment. Shores are overloaded with plastic waste, marine animals and sea birds ingest plastic with their food, and as a result most of them perish. “Every year around ten million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans. That corresponds to about one truck load per minute” (Ziebarth / Seeger 2019 : 28). Here, microplastics also play a decisive role. Due to the fineness of microplastics “[annually] between 1.8 and 5 million tons of microplastics […] end up in the environment” (WWF Germany 2020). The water-insoluble characteristics of plastic is also a hazard.
The change in social values towards a more sustainable consumption, a greater awareness of climate change is on the general agenda. This challenges the sectors and industries and puts tremendous pressure on them. Now, many companies are ready to disclose their value-added and production chain. When developing future-proof innovations, all issues relating to sustainability must be given particular consideration.
As a member of the Dornbirn-GFC program committee, Isa Hofmann moderated two thematic blocks with subsequent discussions. The topic of sustainability also played a major role here. How to cope with environmental hurdles and support the global initiative to save the planet?
Session “Cicurlar Economy & Sustainability”, Wednesday, 3:30-5:10 pm
The first discussion round that Isa Hofmann moderated was in the topic block “Circular Economy & Sustainability” and took place on Wednesday afternoon (3: 30-5: 10 pm). Five experts from research and industry put an extremely interesting focus on several research outcomes and recommendations as well as industry based environmentally friendly fiber developments. Due to the fact that 75 per cent of all waste in the ocean is plastics and more than 240 mio tons of plastic are used annually, there is an urgent need for change.
Marine biologist Dimitry Deheyn clearly pointed out that cellulose-based materials show a much faster biodegradation in the environment than plastic materials thus minimizing the ecological footprint. Sergio Paniagua from University of Leon in Spain showcased how special spinning, weaving and washing technological solutions help to minimize microfiber emissions in the life cycle of textiles “to ensure that each drop of water is just a drop of water” as he summarized.
Speakers were: Dimitry Deheyn, University of California (USA), Mine Turkay, Korteks A.S., part of the Zorlu Group (TUR), Sergio Paniagua, University of Leon (ESP), as well as Ali Ibrikci and Aydin Oruc, Research & Development, Kipas Textile (TUR).
Session „Fiber Innovations“, Thurday 1:30-3:10 pm
The second discussion that Isa Hofman was moderating took place on Thurday afternoon (1:30-3:10 pm) in the thematic block „Fiber Innovations“. The discussion round took a deeper look on innovation processes and to which extent a certain innovation culture, the appropriate digital mindset endowed with the willingness to adopt agility are necessary prerequisites. Dr. Giordano Koch, Managing director of the consulting company Hyve gave an insight how to tackle today’s transformational challenges with the company’s agile innovation lab structure. His credo: “Stay curious and brave, always open for new topics, embrace change.”
Stefan Ficher, managing director Märkische Faser, pleaded for bearable conditions for the national and European producers particularly with a view to raising Co2 taxes and energy and raw material expenses. We all learned in corona pandemic how important it is to have a strong local production and being less dependant from global supply chains as far as essential goods are concerned. Building on a long tradition and experience combined with a truly innovative spirit are decisive asset.
Speakers were: Dr. Giordano Koch, Managing Director at HYVE Innovate GmbH (GER), Dr. Christoph Burgstaller, Transfercenter für Kunststofftechnik GmbH (AUT), Katharina Gregorich, Product Development for Lenzing Web Technology Project, Lenzing AG (AUT) and Stefan Fichter, Managing Director Märkische Faser GmbH (GER).
WWF Deutschland (Hg.) (2020): Mikroplastik in der Umwelt. Hintergrundpapier, Berlin.
Ziebarth, Linda und Dorothea Seeger(2019): „Plastik im Wasser. Kunststoff kennt keine Grenzen“in: Plastikatlas 2019. Daten und Fakten über eine Welt voller Kunststoff. Kooperationsprojekt von Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung sowie Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), 2. Auflage, 28-29.