To put it simply:
Fluorocarbons don not occur naturally on our planet. These are polyfluorinated or perfluorinated compounds, also referred to as PFC or PFOS. They were invented in the 1960s and have been used since then for a variety of applications, for example as a chemical finish on textiles to make them waterproof, stain resistant and oil repellent. PFCs are also used in many other industrial areas.
The real problem is that it was subsequently discovered that PFCs are harmful to the environment and to human health. For example, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is one of the most dangerous substances.
PFOA is created during a production process that involves C8 technology. C8 stands for eight carbon atoms (carbon = C). Grossly simplified, these carbon atoms are replaced by fluorine atoms (all = per, some = polyfluorinated). This makes an extremely stable and dangerous molecule – PBT substance:
Not exactly a chemical you want to have around. There are many studies about the serious health consequences of PFC in the body, including cancer.
If a rain jacket has been proofed with C8, traces of PFOA can be found in it. Whether or not, this is dangerous for the wearer or the degree to which it might be, is still being debated. But in any case, it is clear that in the manufacturing process of PFC and the materials treated with it, PFC escapes into the environment, primarily by means of industrial wastewater.
Because all of the earth’s water is moving around in a huge, endless cycle of evaporation, precipitation, ocean currents, and so on, PFC is spread around the planet. We've known this for a long time, but it was the Greenpeace Detox Campaign that first raised the public’s awareness of the issue.
The EU is considering a ban on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), but so far, the only country to have legal limits is Norway. In the rest of the world, PFCs continue to be processed legally.
So we believe that it is all the more important for us to take on responsibility as an outdoor brand and to voluntarily eliminate the use of all PFCs in our products as quickly as possible.
We need waterproofing: Textile surfaces are waterproofed with durable water repellency (DWR) to repel water and dirt. Without this surface treatment, the outer fabric would absorb rainwater and feel damp, even if the product had a waterproof membrane.
In the past, it was virtually impossible from a technological standpoint to produce an equivalent high-performance waterproofing agent without PFCs. Thanks to today’s innovative technologies, this is now no longer a problem.
The fact is, however, that oil repellency on fabrics is achieved only with the help of PFC. We have thoroughly examined the issue of whether outdoor products really need this feature and decided that for VAUDE, they do not – for the sake of the planet and the people who live on it.
VAUDE has taken on responsibility and has voluntarily undertaken a commitment to manufacture its entire collection completely PFC-free by the year 2020 – the Apparel Collection by 2018.
For years, our VAUDE Materials Team has been testing which PFC-free DWR offers the best water beading effect on which materials. The Spray Test is the industry standard for this. In addition, we always test the abrasion resistance and washing resistance of DWR, and how much water the material absorbs during simulated heavy rainfall in accordance with the Bundesmann Test.
Ruling for Eco Finish. Example: Cyclist Jacket
Ruling against Eco Finish. Example: Escape Light Jacket – up to Summer 2017 Collection:
New ruling Eco Finish. Example: Escape Light from Summer 18:
Our procedure can be clearly explained using the Escape Light Jacket as an example. Until summer 2017 the water absorption levels in our tests were too high, so we didn’t transition to an Eco Finish fabric for this collection.
We then worked intensively with our fabric supplier and the DWR supplier on the functionality of the fabric and have now achieved significantly lower water absorption levels. As a result, the fabric is now PFC-free in the Summer 2018 Collection.
This has been a long and complex process that we have been pursuing together with the manufacturers of our materials and DWR and with experts from universities and industrial associations. We only introduce materials into our collection that offer full functionality. After all, nobody like getting wet either…
We are proud of the fact that we have now successfully transitioned to PFC-free DWRs for many of our materials.
The percentage of our PFC-free apparel (products without DWR and products with Eco-Finish waterproofing) is now 100 % in the Summer 2018 Collection.
The only hurdle yet to be faced – some of our suppliers have not yet been able to produce waterproof zips without PFC. In the Summer 2019 Collection we will hopefully have solved this problem.
Together with our suppliers, we draw on a full portfolio of fluorocarbon-free alternatives that have proven reliable on our materials. Since not every technology functions equally well on each kind of material, we have a variety of options from different suppliers.
VAUDE Eco Finish covers all fluorocarbon-free technologies that are used in our VAUDE products.
We use C6 DWR to waterproof the products for which we have still not found an Eco Finish DWR that works well.
C6 is considered to be a more environmentally friendly alternative to C8. It contains six carbon atoms and does not create PFOA. But because C6 has shorter molecule chains, it is more mobile and spreads faster than C8 via the global waterways. It is really only a stop-gap technology that we want to replace with Eco Finish as soon as possible.
At VAUDE this technology applies in particular to tents, backpacks and some footwear models.
The VAUDE Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) sets strict limits on the use of chemicals and applies to VAUDE products. The bluesign® system also has strict regulations on the use of PFC.
»It was a feat, but we are proud of the fact that we have now successfully switched many of our materials to PFC-free DWR: From the Summer 2018 Season, we will use Eco Finish throughout the entire Apparel Collection. «