Environment

Muji’s “de-pla” is serious… “What is real environmental load reduction? I want to share wisdom” | Business Insider Japan

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Created by: Japan Business Insider

The “Plastic Resource Recycling Promotion Law” (“New Plastic Law”) came into effect on April 1.

Also in the apparel industry, efforts to eliminate plastic are in full swing to curb climate change by reducing the burden on the environment and tackling the problem of microplastics.

As part of the apparel industry edition featuring “Forward, Plastic Free,” Muji’s Good Product Initiative, Uniqlo, Fast Retailing and H&M, a major global apparel company, is working with any attitude and measures, if any I will follow up.

Synthetic fibers supporting the apparel industry

In fact, synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, polyurethane and acrylic account for 60 to 70 percent of clothing sold in Japan. It has been widely supported by people’s lives because of its durability, lightness, cheap convenience, and excellent materials.

However, oil is one of the plastics used as a raw material, and the production process produces nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

In addition, when rubbed during washing or wearing, it flows into rivers, oceans and air in the form of microplastics. There are also concerns about the destruction of marine ecosystems and the effects on the human body.

There are four main ways to remove plastic from clothing.

  1. synthetic fiberswitch to natural fibersmatter
  2. plant sources, etc.Use alternative plastic materialsmatter
  3. Use recycled polyester, recycled nylon, etc.matter. While it is not a complete solution, it reduces waste and makes it a type of recycling to reduce environmental load.
  4. Stop using plastic packaging materials and accessoriesSwitch to alternative materials such as paper

MUJI “Almost De-plastic” Packaging Materials and Clothing

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Photo: Japan Business Insider

Since its inception in 1980, “MUJI” has been continuously manufacturing products considering the global environment and producers from three perspectives: “material selection”, “process inspection” and “packaging simplification”. “We will democratize ESG by designing all products in a circular fashion and offering them at prices that are easily accessible to anyone,” said President Nobuo Domae, who will assume the role of president in 2021. “We will make ESG a reality with social value.” contribute. The impact will spread widely to the company,” he said at the inauguration.

Regarding the actions of the new plastics law that came into effect on April 1, the Ryopin Project plans to explain the following.

“Prior to this new law, (1) saving and removing plastic by diverting recycled paper for product packaging and store display materials, (2) abolishing plastic shopping bags and promoting the use of shared bags, (3) plastic we Work is underway to collect and recycle bottles, and (4) sequentially convert single-use plastic materials (spoons, forks, straws, etc.) to alternative materials.
We believe that the implementation of the new law, which makes collection and recycling easier, will bring tailwinds to our company, and we aim to contribute to a recycling of resources and a sustainable society. “

Ordinance Okazaki, Director and Executive Director, General Manager, Apparel and Grocery Division, made the following statement regarding the area of ​​responsibility in March at the time of this article.

“Clothes are almost made of plastic. Packaging is also made of paper, (2022).By the end of the year, we will be in a state where we use almost no plastic.It costs more than before, but we’ll get through it thoroughly. “

“Mujirushi Ryohin was originally born as ‘the opposite of consumer society’ and started as ‘pretty cheap’, it wanted to democratize ESG for consumers. Even sustainable products are affordable. We will focus on delivering products “(Mr. Okazaki)

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Muji has already started switching packaging materials to paper products, even over-the-counter products.

Photo: Kumi Matsushita

Muji has traditionally used mostly natural materials, and the use of synthetic fibers has been kept to a minimum. In particular, organic cotton has been used since 1999 and switched to organic cotton in 2018.

For example, the thermal underwear series is an iconic item that insists on using natural materials. When it comes to functional underwear, the image of synthetic fibers is strong, but we succeeded in giving organic cotton the ability to absorb moisture and sweat inside the garment to generate heat. Mr. Okazaki was the first to develop this non-plastic product.

In the autumn of 2009, the “thermal underwear/organic cotton temperature control series” was released. The organic cotton wraps functional yarns that adjust the temperature according to the outside temperature. The so-called thermal underwear and functional underwear are in the world. The name is changed to “warm inner”, but The method of making has not changed, we have added thicker ones and ones made from organic cotton wrapped wool. “(Mr. Okazaki)

Developed “world’s lightest natural material” product

Kapok is now experimentally challenging Ryohin Keikaku, who focuses on the development of natural materials.

Kapok is a deciduous tree of the Malvaceae family kapok, which means “fiber” in Malay. Its vegetation is mainly distributed in Indonesia, India, Thailand and the islands of the Philippines. Since it is resistant to pests, it does not require pesticides and has little impact on the environment in which it is grown.

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In addition to hemp, Muji is developing “kapok” as an experimental material. Also used as an intermediate material for life jackets.

Photo: Kumi Matsushita

Natural fibers such as cotton can be extracted from the nuts of the kapok tree. It is said to be the lightest natural material in the world at one-eighth the weight of cotton. The texture is fluffy and contains air, so it is highly hygroscopic and warm. It is also durable, elastic and waterproof.

It has long been popular as a stuffing for pillows and stuffed animals. It is also used as an intermediate material for life jackets and life-saving buoys. It is widely used as oil traps and oil booms by taking advantage of the easy solubility of oil. On the other hand, the fiber length is short and spinning is difficult.

“In an era when there were no synthetic fiber materials such as polyester derived from petroleum, it was natural to use natural material kapok. In an era where it is necessary to reduce the burden on the earth’s environment, MUJI will pay attention to kapok again. ing.
We’re developing it not only as a replacement for petroleum-derived polyester, but also as a replacement for cotton, which requires a lot of water to grow. “(Mr. Okazaki).

In Japan, the “Kapok” brand was developed as a substitute for down. A blend of 60% recycled polyester and 40% vegetable fibers (kapok) is made into a sheet that is used as an inner layer for down and coats. Most of the outer material is 100% polyester and 100% nylon.

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Photo: Kumi Matsushita

At Muji, we make shirts and pants by blending 57-60% organic cotton and 40-43% vegetable fiber (kapok). Harnessing the softness and smooth texture of the fibers, the loose silhouette is comfortable and gender-neutral. Trial sale at Aoyama store in 2021, and trial sale at Ginza store on March 18, 2022.

“We’re still in the experimental phase of whether we can make things into products. We’re a global company, what kind of products will be commercialized where and how?We have to build a solid system and industrialize it.
Barriers are high, including the inability to travel freely abroad due to the corona disaster, but if it can be achieved, it is possible to hire people who live locally such as Indonesia. I want to accomplish all kinds of tasks, not just environmental issues. “(Mr. Okazaki)

We will also be working on the adoption of hemp (hemp), a thermal material for demolition.

When I tried it 10 years ago, I gave up once because of image issues. However, considering the environment, he decided to re-challenge hemp, which is said to use much less water and an environmental load than cotton and flax (hemp).

From mid-April 2022, as spring/summer products, shirts and other items will be sold in some stores as a trial of the hemp material. It is said that the project will be expanded in autumn and winter.

All synthetic fibers are recycled materials.Utilize residues left over from the manufacturing process

Although the principle of natural fibers,

“In a world where we’ve grown accustomed to the comfort and convenience of synthetic fibers around the world, it would be arrogant to force our customers to change everything because natural materials are good for the environment.

I had to use synthetics for things that were more useful to synthetics, like cold weather down jackets, rain jackets, and umbrellas.In that case, the use of recycled polyester or recycled nylon is essential. “(Mr. Okazaki)

The raw materials are not PET bottles used outside, but “nylon, polyester, etc.” in the process of making unbranded products in the factory.The use of recycled materials made from residues leads to a circular design.” said Mr. Okazaki.

However, as long as recycled synthetic fibers are used, the problem of ocean pollution caused by microplastics will not be solved. Even though it’s biodegradable, it will slowly break down if not in the right environment, and it may float in the air even if it becomes invisible. It also emits carbon dioxide if incinerated.

“I would like to continue thinking about the fundamental solution to this problem. Recently, biomaterials derived from plants and proteins have received attention, but including these things, there are problems with deplasticization and decarbonization. I want to continue thinking about the fundamental solution of “” Scheme (Mr. Okazaki)

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