ISA TanTec’s Bio-based “Next-Gen” Materials

Traditional “take-make-waste” linear models of manufacturing and consumption are a thing of the past for sustainable material manufacturer ISA TanTec. And as the industry strives for the streamlining of sustainable products and procedures, ISA TanTec firmly stands ahead of the curve with its “next-gen” methodology for materials.

With 4 manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Vietnam, and China, ISA TanTec’s ultra-modern take on sustainable material is rooted in a philosophy that equates sustainability and performance.

Through its COSM business unit – acronymic for Creation of Sustainable Materials – the group offers sustainably-made bio-based material content that can meet the required specs for footwear and is already in production in retail for footwear brands worldwide. Equipped with service infrastructure that aids both brands and factories, COSM also offers a pricing structure amenable for both small and large scale projects.

Materials that embody its COSM principles include its HyphaLite, NatraLite and Terralite products that are collectively bio-based, biodegradable, replace petrochemical based synthetics with sustainable alternatives, and enable circularity.

Here, ISA TanTec talks to Fairchild Studio about COSM, standout materials, and leading trends in the sustainable material segment.

Fairchild Studio: Tell us about the genesis of COSM. What initiated this program and how is it differentiated in the market?

ISA TanTec: We are a Next-Gen material manufacturer, represented by our trademarked LITE (Low Impact to the Environment) manufacturing concept in all facilities.

As one of the largest global producers of sustainable leather products we recognized that our customers were exploring other sustainable materials to replace petrol chemical-based materials. During research and development of our COSM materials it became evident that many of these petrol chemical-based materials were often referred to as vegan leather or alternatively as plant-based materials, but most still containing large percentages of various forms of plastics.

Therefore, our target with COSM was to develop materials with the highest bio-based contents possible while still meeting the performance requirements to produce footwear, handbags, and accessories. Today we have developed different options for our customers including HyphaLite, NatraLite and Terralite.

Fairchild Studio: Walk us through the nuances of HyphaLite TC, NatraLite and TerraLite. Why are these standout materials in the sustainability segment?

ISA TanTec: HyphaLite TC, NatraLite and TerraLite are sustainable materials options developed within our COSM™ Business Unit. They are all USDA certified, up to 100 percent bio-based, containing regenerative components, biodegradable, FSC certified and fully scalable for production.

All three options were created under the principles of ISA’s COSM™ (Creation of Sustainable Materials): to utilize plant-based materials which are biodegradable, production of products that meet circularity criteria and ability to replace petrochemical-based materials.

Sustainability has been rooted in every aspect of our additional sustainable material options, covering sourcing, development, and performance. For example, the raw materials used for HyphaLite™ TC are sourced locally wherever possible and must be produced sustainably. The mushrooms used for making HyphaLite™ TC are from mushrooms that do not meet requirements for the food chain and are grown close to our production facility in Vietnam.

Our additional sustainable materials options are designed specifically to meet the circularity criteria as opposed to the “take-make-waste” linear model of manufacturing and consumption.

Fairchild Studio: Are there any emerging or leading trends TanTec has taken note of in the market? What’s driving current consumer behaviors?

ISA TanTec: Vegan product lines have been introduced by some of the world’s largest fashion labels in recent years and the term “Vegan Leather” has increased in popularity in order to convey the sustainability and durability of leather but is an oxymoron itself. Furthermore, most of those greatly promoted materials still contain a large percentage of plastics such as polyester, elastane and polyurethane.

The fashion industries rely heavily on plastic-based fibers to create thousands of commodities every year. With the overconsumption of fast fashion, plastics have become the main culprit causing irreversible environmental pollution.

Greenwashing is another challenge. An influential rating system assessing the environmental impact of all sorts of fabrics and materials, has rated plastic-based fibers as the more sustainable choice. There are increasing doubts on fashion brands’ sustainable claims.

Seeking solutions to these long-standing environmental concerns, we developed our Next-Gen COSM materials to replace plastics which in many cases are falsely called sustainable.

Fairchild Studio: What’s next for TanTec?

ISA TanTec: Our LITE manufacturing system has been the beacon of our business, leading us to achieve excellence and conquer challenges. As we look to the future, our COSM™ business unit, alongside our leather business unit, will continue to develop innovative, natural materials with a focus on sustainability – and reduce the reliance of petro-chemical based materials.

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