How Polartec Will Stop Your Next Fleece Polluting The Environment - Outdoors Magic

Outdoors Gear, Equipment, News, Reviews, Forums, Walking Routes and More at



How Polartec Will Stop Your Next Fleece Polluting The Environment

Polartec, the creators of the original synthetic fleece, have pioneered a new material that overcomes the 'plastic problem' associated with fleece fabrics

Your hiking clothes are an invisible polluter. Every time you wear, wash and pack your synthetic gear, tiny microfibres – minuscule fragments of plastic – are shed into the environment, a by-product of everyday wear and tear. They end up in our oceans, forests and mountains. They are ingested by animals and infiltrate the food chain. It is yet another contributor to earth’s environmental crisis.

But there is a solution. Polartec – inventors of the fleece in 1981 (four decades ago next year) – have pioneered a new technology that sheds 80% fewer microfibres. It’s an innovation with the potential to prevent millions and millions of tiny plastic fragments from polluting the environment – and that’s a lot of polyester or nylon particles that won’t end up in the stomachs of turtles.

“Polartec have flipped the traditional fleece manufacturing process on its head.”

The technology is called Polartec Power Air, an ingenious new knit construction that not only reduces microfibre shedding but also encapsulates air to retain warmth. The result is an eco-friendly, planet-saving fabric with superb thermal efficiency – a win win scenario. And that’s not all. Polartec Power Air is made from a minimum of 50% recycled PET plastic, so its actual construction has green credentials too.

But how does it work? Unless you’re a knitting guru or yarn boffin, it’s a little tricky to understand – a lot of material science wizardry is involved. But, in layman’s terms, Polartec have flipped the traditional fleece manufacturing process on its head. Instead of having lofted, high-pile knit structures exposed on the outer (the traditional method), the insulating lofted fibres are encased within the knit construction. They are protected by a shielding, supportive barrier – and this is what prevents microfibre shedding. The encased internal yarns also create individual air pockets that capture body warmth, improving thermal efficiency. Polartec call it ‘multilayer continuous yarn construction’, whatever that means. But we prefer “that magically eco-friendly fleecy fabric”. Either way, it’s very, very clever stuff.

A symmetrical, cell-like grid on the inner holds the warmth, whilst the smoother outer surface reduces drag to prevent pilling.

“From conception to getting garments into the market, Power Air took us two years to develop”, explains Polartec’s global product director, Michael Cattanach over a Zoom video call. “By focusing on excellence in fundamental material science, as well as world class knitting, we’ve created a product we’re really proud of. But this is only the start. We don’t see Polartec Power Air as the end. It’s a platform to build upon – watch this space for bigger and better innovations.”

Related: How Polartec NeoShell Changed Waterproof Technology

Yet Polartec are not interesting in fabric sorcery and knitting modernisation for the sake of it. The ultimate end goal is a garment that works brilliantly out on the trail, as Michael is keen to highlight. “We’ve made a warm, comfortable, stretchy material, without using a whole load of surface finishing that would expose fibres in a regular fleece. It doesn’t look fleecy at all and the warmth is built into the knitted structure. But rather than focus on the absolute warmth of a fabric, we’re always focused on the warmth-to-weight ratio. We want to keep our consumers warm and comfortable, without the physiological burden of carrying a load of weight in their garment. Our Power Air fabric is right in the goldilocks zone – not too hot, not too cold – of what is needed in the market.”

Houdini Power Air Houdi

The Power Air technology is used by different clothing brands, such as Adidas Terrex. Another brand onboard is Houdini, a Swedish company with a commendable focus on sustainability, who make the M’s Power Air Houdi. The Houdi (see what they did there) is a hoodie-style jacket made from recycled, post-consumer plastic. It is light, airy and warm – ideal as a mid-layer – with a snug, slim fit. A symmetrical, cell-like grid on the inner holds the warmth, whilst the smoother outer surface reduces drag to prevent pilling (that annoying defect when material bobbles into small fibre balls after washing and extended use). It’s pretty heavy (Power Air is a rather heavy material, so won’t suit those looking to adventure light and fast) – but ultimately its USP is the eco benefit of using Power Air. It gives you that warmth boost from retained body heat, encapsulated in those clever air pockets, as well as the peace of mind that you’re not shedding plastic fragments into the environment.

“1.7 billion plastic bottles have been saved from the landfill.”

“How on earth do you measure how many of these near-invisible, microscopic fibres are shed by a particular garment?”, we ask Michael during our Zoom call. In the absence of any standardised testing methods for the problem of microfibre shedding, Polartec spent a lot of time and effort in their labs quantifying the scale of the problem so that they’d know when they’d succeeded. “The 80% reduction in microfibre shedding is compared to our own regular fleeces, which are well-known for their long-term durability and far from the worst violators in terms of shedding”, explains Michael. So, if you upgrade from a cheap, low quality jacket, the microfibre savings will actually be way, way higher.

“We don’t want to overstate the problem”, adds Michael. “The bigger worry is the misconception that it’s fleece that is the biggest contributor to micro plastics in the ocean. Our research found that it pales into insignificance compared to plastics from paints and tyres, for instance.” Yet the fact that Polartec has poured so much energy into the problem – with an ethos that every little helps when it comes to plastic pollution – shows their commitment to sustainability.

“If more brands followed suit, that’d be good news for our fragile planet.”

The brand has saved more than 1.7 billion plastic bottles from landfill, recycling them into over 200 different usable fabrics, and has focused on sustainable, eco-friendly practices since the early 1990s, before it became in vogue. “We’ve always put the environment and the quality of our products before profit”, concludes Michael. If more brands followed suit, that’d be good news for our fragile planet. For more information on Polartec Power Air, visit

Newsletter Terms & Conditions

Please enter your email so we can keep you updated with news, features and the latest offers. If you are not interested you can unsubscribe at any time. We will never sell your data and you'll only get messages from us and our partners whose products and services we think you'll enjoy.

Read our full Privacy Policy as well as Terms & Conditions.