Ralph Lauren invests in waste fiber upcycling startup

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In New York, preppy fashion brand Ralph Lauren is investing in Natural Fiber Welding, a Peoria-Illinois-based startup developing a process to upcycle waste natural fibers into higher-performing materials.

Founded in 2015, Natural Fiber Welding uses “precise manipulation of molecular bonding” to upgrade the performance of waste cotton and recycled fibers. Founder and CEO Luke Haverhals, who uses chemistry principles and closed loop processes to achieve the desired result, tells Environmental Leader the company advanced scale from lab to pilot in 2017.

Ralph Lauren hopes the technology will help it expand use of recycled post-consumer cotton. “[And o]ver time, the partnership will enable Ralph Lauren to replace and reduce its reliance on non-biodegradable synthetics, such as polyester and nylon, while scaling the use of more sustainable and upcycled materials,” the brand says, adding that it has committed to sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.