Polartec fleece is about to get greener with the announcement that Malden Mills, the manufacturer behind the famous brand, is expanding its recycled and renewable fabric programme for this autumn / winter with even more to come for 2007.

Fleece, as you may know, is essentially plastic and a by-product of the petro-chemical industry, but it's also possible to make fleece from, say, recycled plastic drinks containers, something first done by Yvon Chouinard's Patagonia brand, with Malden Mills, over 12 years ago with their PCR Synchilla line.

Polartec says that expanding 'preserving the environment for future generations is not just the right thing to do, it is also a "mission critical" strategy for the company's long-term success' and we're not going to argue with the basic principles behind that.

This autumn will see two new recycled fleece garments hit the market in the form of Patagonia's Capilene 4 long underwear program and Timberland's new Mountain Sweater. The former is made of a new recycled Polartec® Power Dry® which will be made of at least 50% recycled polyester fibre and will be 100% recyclable through an Eco-Circle® program that can turn old polyester garments back into yarn. It is the first time recycled fibres are a fine enough denier to produce soft, comfortable next-to-skin fabrics. Polyester and Wool The Timberland Mountain Sweater, available from August 2006, is another interesting development for Polartec with the introduction of a new Polartec® Power Dry® with wool fabric which combines wool fibres with polyester to get a "best of both worlds" garment mixing naturals and synthetics.

And that's just the beginning says Polartec: "The Timberland launch is a great start. This is just the tip of the iceberg in our work with renewables and we already have quite a few more products in the pipeline for 2007," comments Doug Lumb, Malden Mills Director of Development. Corn-Based Fleece By September 2007 you can expect three new Polyester / wool blend fabrics to be out there alongside a new much anticipated corn-based fleece fabric made of fibres called Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). The material is not only an annually renewable resource, but the finished garments will be compostable, meaning after years of use when they eventually make it to a landfill, these garments are biodegradable, they will break down naturally and make a nice base for growing houseplants...

In addition to wool and corn-based fibres, the recycled polyester product line will expand significantly by Fall 2007 including silkweight, midweight and expedition weight recycled Polartec® Power Dry® fabrics as well as a selection of new Polartec® Thermal Pro® fleece fabrics..

The Right Price Too Last but definitely not least, while recycled fleece used to be more expensive than standard stuff, the new fabrics are apparently not only comparable in quality to virgin fleece fabrics, but will also cost the same making it easier for clothing brands to green their fleece ranges.