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SK chemicals, Dongsung Chemical, and Black Yak Collaborate on Commercializing Sustainable Footwear

By PRNEWSWIRE

Published : April 18, 2024 - 20:20

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  • Revolutionizes cushioning with high-elasticity biomass-based materials
  • Unified domestic industries go beyond performance to promote sustainability in the outdoor industry

SEONGNAM, South Korea, April 18, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- In light of global initiatives to combat climate change, domestic industries have joined forces to reduce carbon emissions in the outdoor industry.

Trekking shoes commercialized by SK chemicals, Dongsung Chemical, and Black Yak
Trekking shoes commercialized by SK chemicals, Dongsung Chemical, and Black Yak

SK chemicals (CEO Ahn Jae-hyun), Dongsung Chemical (Co-CEOs Baek Jin-woo and Lee Man-woo), and BYN Black Yak (Chairman Kang Tae-sun, hereinafter Black Yak) announced on the 18th that they've developed sustainable footwear materials using the naturally-derived material "ECOTRION" and applied them to Black Yak's "Trekking Shoes 343 MAX."

Consumers are attracted to the trekking shoes, launched as a new product this spring, because they satisfy both the high functionality required for outdoor activities and the value consumption trend for eco-friendly materials that reduce greenhouse gases.

The three companies introduced this product after a year of collaboration. SK chemicals is the supplier of 100% bio-based polyol "ECOTRION," while Dongsung Chemical develops the bio-polyurethane resin "NEOPAN®" for footwear using this as a raw material. Utilizing this material, Black Yak produced the "Foot Pillow Cushioning Foam," which is applied to the heel support layer of the midsole to minimize loading on the ankle and knee joints.

The midsole of trekking shoes is a key component that determines the footwear's weight and acts like a car's suspension to provide the level of function. Cushioning is important because the midsole must absorb the impact on the body and ensure safe strides, even on rough terrain.

Dongsung Chemical's bio-polyurethane resin "NEOPAN" for footwear maintains the high elasticity and flexibility of existing polyurethane resins while using bio-based raw materials, providing the shock absorption function of the "Foot Pillow Cushioning Foam."

ECOTRION, utilized in NEOPAN, is an eco-friendly material that uses raw materials that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40% in comparison to conventional petrochemical raw materials. It is utilized in the production of spandex, artificial leather, and urethane elastic materials that are challenging to recycle. ECOTRION has one less carbon atom in its chemical structure compared to petrochemical materials, which gives it a helical-shaped polymer structure that enables the production of products with high elastic resilience, similar to a spring.

Sustainability, which has become a material trend across all industries, is also emerging as a major topic in the outdoor industry. A presentation at the world's largest sporting goods fair, "ISPO Munich 2023," revealed that 38% of consumers indicated a willingness to change their brand if it incorporated climate-friendly elements. Manufacturers are also actively seeking materials that enhance sustainability.

In response, Black Yak plans to diversify its product portfolio by actively utilizing eco-friendly materials and strengthening its corporate image and sales.

Ha Sung-chan, Head of the Planning Business Division at Black Yak, said, "'343 MAX,' the first commercialized product applying bio-based materials, is attracting consumer attention as a product that offers both sustainability and high functionality, not only in terms of environmental significance but also in its effective shock absorption cushioning. We will continue to lead sustainable fashion by expanding our own eco-friendly technology development as well as collaborating with various partners."

SK chemicals and Dongsung Chemical plan to gradually expand the bio-material market in the sports and fashion fields through active collaboration with major domestic and international brands.

Kim Eung-soo, Head of SK chemicals' Green Materials Business Division, stated, "Bio-materials, along with recycled plastics, are one of the promising alternatives to replace petrochemical materials. We plan to actively highlight the sustainability and functionality of PO3G, focusing on big brands that are leading the sustainable trend with bio-materials."

Noh Jung-sik, Head of Dongsung Chemical's Polyurethane Business Division, said, "We are exploring collaboration opportunities with various footwear brands based on the environmental advantages and excellent properties of the bio-polyurethane resin 'NEOPAN' for footwear. With Dongsung Chemical's resin compounding and synthesis technology, we will provide solutions that meet customer needs by maximizing the different characteristics and functionality of each footwear."

Meanwhile, the trekking shoes "343 MAX" launched by Black Yak are being evaluated as a product that possesses both the technology of hiking shoes and the flexibility and cushioning of sports shoes. This product is gaining popularity as a functional and stylish hiking shoe, featuring the bio-material "Foot Pillow Cushioning" foam that absorbs the impact generated when walking and Black Yak's "Twist Control System" that controls lateral sway.

Glossary

- Polyol: A type of polyhydric alcohol, an alcohol having two or more hydroxyl groups (-OH). Polyol is an essential base material used to manufacture spandex, polyurethane (artificial leather, foam, etc.), and urethane elastomer.

- ECOTRION: A material that can replace various petrochemical-based polyols, including PTMEG, in polyurethane applications by reducing the carbon footprint generated during the product manufacturing process through the use of 100% bio-based polyol.