Q&A Sympatex (Status 17.5.2024)

Here you will find at a glance answers to the most frequently asked questions about Sympatex.

Sympatex is the sustainable concept of a highly functional (waterproof, windproof, breathable) yet fully recyclable polyester membrane.

Yes, that applies to all Sympatex licensed products.

Waterproof

The Sympatex membrane has a water column of over 45,000 mm. For comparison: The highest standard class of DIN EN 343 is achieved from 2,000 mm.

Breathable

The hydrophilic molecular chains transport water vapor outward. The effect dynamically intensifies with increasing temperature or humidity differences.

Windproof

According to DIN EN ISO 9237, the Sympatex membrane is completely windproof, ensuring that the warm air layer is not carried away from the body.

Durable

We deliberately avoid pores in our membrane that can become blocked over time. This ensures the long-term functionality of our membrane.

We have developed a membrane that provides optimal comfort in any weather and activity.

Based on a physico-chemical principle, with no pores

Our poreless membrane consists of billions of sweat-binding molecules and, based on a physico-chemical principle, ensures rapid moisture transport from the inside to the outside. This keeps the body dry even in extreme situations. Unlike conventional microporous structures, the Sympatex membrane maintains full functionality even after multiple washes, as the pores are not clogged by surfactants.

Hydrophilic, water-loving, molecular chains in our membrane absorb water vapor and channel it outward. The greater the temperature and humidity difference, the greater the effect. Thus, our membrane works dynamically and adapts perfectly to the conditions. At the same time, it does not allow water or wind to penetrate from the outside, protecting the body from any weather.

A membrane for a closed loop:

Our membrane not only protects you during your outdoor adventures but also the environment. For us, this is not a contradiction. We aim to fully close the textile loop with our polyester membrane and together with our partners.

Loop – Sympatex Membran & Laminate

The Sympatex membrane is made of health-safe polyether ester, a combination of polyester and polyether molecules. This makes it completely environmentally and skin-friendly and recyclable like a PET bottle.

After years of research, in 2021, more than 25% of the raw materials used in the Sympatex membrane were switched to bio-based sources – without compromising performance values.

For more details on the bio-based components, you can find them here.

Yes! In the production of the membrane according to the specific Sympatex formulation, it is possible to significantly reduce the CO2 footprint of the product. Specifically, this means: The production of a Sympatex copolymer generates 30 times less CO2 compared to a PTFE polymer.

To eliminate any contribution to global warming, Sympatex additionally compensates since 2017, in partnership with ClimatePartner, the amount of CO2 of its entire annual membrane production through appropriately certified CO2 projects.

Yes, the seams are waterproof welded using specially developed seam sealing tapes that are matched to the respective laminates. Only this combination, along with thorough testing according to our high quality standards and based on international norms, constitutes a licensed Sympatex product.

Our membrane has a water column of over 45,000 mm. For comparison, the highest standard class of DIN EN 343 is achieved from 2,000 mm onwards.

The Sympatex membrane works consistently, both at rest and in motion.

What’s unique is that the membrane is vapor-permeable and driven by a physico-chemical principle. This means:

The vapor transport occurs due to a vapor pressure difference, meaning the difference in vapor pressure inside and outside the membrane. A higher temperature gradient is therefore advantageous.

Similarly, the movement-induced air circulation within the shoe generally enhances moisture transport towards the membrane.

However, moisture transport / breathability is also present in the static / inactive state. Therefore, warmth and movement are not necessary prerequisites to achieve breathability. Thus, we’re talking about an intelligent membrane that automatically adapts to the wearer’s conditions and needs.

Yes. Especially in the textile sector, we collaborate with experts who extend the lifespan of our products. You can find more details here.

Yes, the function of the membrane / lining laminate is primarily independent of the upper material. However, carefully selected breathable upper materials are crucial for ensuring that moisture can be transported from the interior of the shoe to the outside. Sympatex works very closely with its brand partners to ensure a perfectly matched combination of materials.

The Sympatex membrane functions at any outdoor temperature typical for our latitudes. An exception is very tropical regions with 100% humidity. Under these conditions, no membrane works, regardless of the material used.

In addition to the mentioned main application areas, Sympatex membranes/laminates are also used in special niches in other industries (e.g., medical technology, automotive, climate control). These applications typically involve the transfer of moisture or similar substances.

Sympatex can present a range of certificates. The most well-known ones are Bluesign® and OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100, as well as B Corp and the Global Recycling Standard.

You can find an overview of partnerships here.

Environmental protection is the top priority for Sympatex. The entire company works across all departments towards this goal.

We take responsibility and drive the transformation of the textile industry and societal change forward. As pioneers for circularity, climate protection, sustainable products, and engagement, we combine high performance of our products with uncompromising responsibility for future generations. High customer demands and sustainability are not contradictory for us but a perfect complement.

Our focus lies on closing the textile loop. We address three main themes: the recyclability of our products, the use of recycled materials, and the establishment of a recycling infrastructure.

As material blends, common in our industry, are extremely difficult to recycle for technical reasons, we offer monomaterial laminates as the perfect basis to later enter the recycling process.

Additionally, our portfolio is steadily expanding with Fiber2Fiber (F2F) laminates, made from textile waste.

Furthermore, we engage in projects such as the Accelerating Circularity Project Europe (ACPE) to establish a European recycling infrastructure, which is currently a major challenge for our industry but offers extremely high potential.

In addition to our commitment to circularity, we are pioneers in water and CO2 savings and utilize current technologies, such as the use of spin nozzle dyeing, or engage in projects like the Carbon Reduction Project focused on the supply chain, to guarantee a very low footprint of our laminates.

Here are some figures and facts:

  • Our Sympatex membrane made of 100% polyester traditionally has a low water footprint (50% less than, for example, PTFE membrane). (1.6 m³ PES membrane < 2.8 m³ PTFE membrane (m³ per running meter)).
  • Lamination results in low microfiber release: 50% fewer microfibers during washing than non-laminated raw materials.
  • CO2 emissions: 50% less than with other membranes (e.g., rec. PES membrane 1.24 kg < ePE + PU coating 2.65 kg (kg CO2 per kg material)).
  • Full CO2 compensation of the membrane since 2017.
  • Certified compliance with the strictest guidelines in the manufacturing process by bluesign®.
  • On average, the membrane consists of 15% recycled material.

Everything at a glance: Sympatex Sustainability Report

The incineration rate of used textiles is alarmingly high. Textiles primarily end up in landfills in third countries, where they are incinerated. This process generates significant amounts of hazardous residues that enter our environment – from chemicals and microfibers to extreme air pollution.

Sympatex regards textiles as valuable resources and not as waste. We clearly advocate for recyclable products and against incineration. The prerequisite is the use of monomaterial laminates.

Our copolyester membrane chemically consists of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Therefore, during incineration, mainly CO2, CO, and water are generated. Sympatex has conducted tests under defined conditions according to EN ISO 5659-2 (NBS box), which have shown that our membrane practically burns residue-free under these defined conditions (combustion residue approximately 1% w/w).

100% Circularity by 2030

A little better is not good enough. Therefore, our goal by 2030 is Zero Waste – from material to finished product. We aim to close the ecological cycle in the functional textile industry. With our recyclable polyester Sympatex membrane, which has been completely climate-neutral since 2017, we provide the ideal basis to achieve our «Closing-the-Loop» goal.

We advocate against incineration and for recycling. Our laminates are already suitable for the recycling process. At the same time, we offer eco-design recommendations so that our brand partners can create fully recyclable products.

You can find our Responsible Design Guide here.

In general, we recommend brushing shoes with a soft brush and lukewarm water from the outside. In the washing machine, primarily the upper materials (e.g., leather) are damaged. The Sympatex membrane can be washed easily at 30 degrees Celsius.

The appropriate care products are mainly determined by the outer material, not the membrane. There are various care products available that might affect breathability. It is advisable to avoid heavily oil-based creams to prevent impairing breathability.

Sympatex products are treated with an ultra-thin coating called DWR (Durable Water Repellent), which means the product is permanently water-repellent. This treatment ensures that water beads off the outer layer of the fabric rather than being absorbed. Regular use, dirt, and detergents can reduce the water-repellent properties. If the water repellency cannot be restored through washing and drying, you can use a waterproofing spray. Make sure to use a fluorine-free or C6-free spray.

The Sympatex membrane itself is 100% waterproof and does not require waterproofing. However, since it is always covered by an outer material, like the outer fabric of a rain jacket or the leather of a shoe, this outer layer also needs protection. This is where DWR comes in: DWR stands for «durable water repellent.» DWR is a waterproofing treatment for the outer material to better protect it from moisture and dirt. Regular re-waterproofing helps maintain protection against dirt and supports the water-beading effect.

Regular re-waterproofing provides protection against dirt and supports the water-beading effect. It is advisable to avoid heavily oil-based creams to prevent impairing breathability. Suitable care products for shoes with Sympatex membranes are available in specialized shoe stores.

We develop agile and flexible marketing measures that are exciting and attractive. Our main task in marketing is to be inspiring and unique. We keep our partners’ brand values and target groups in mind and focus on the values of responsible purchasing. Together with our partners, we cooperatively develop the most exciting digital and physical communication measures. These include videos, podcasts, displays, test kits, and events.

The functional membrane, with its technology for water resistance, wind resistance, and breathability, is bonded with outer and lining fabrics made of polyester to form a laminate. For the application of the membrane in different products, it can be combined with a variety of so-called carrier materials. A tape that matches the laminate makes the end product waterproof and a high-performance functional textile.

No, you cannot buy Sympatex products directly from Sympatex. We collaborate with well-known brands, including pioneers in sustainability and specialists in the best possible outdoor clothing. We fit both because we provide a membrane that is both high-performing and recyclable.

Here you can discover our brand partners and product innovations.

Yes! We aim not only to optimize our own products but also to help build a circular infrastructure in the entire textile industry. Therefore, we are involved in various industry-wide projects.

Sympatex is a co-founder and partner of wear2wear. For this innovative partnership, competent companies in Europe have joined forces with the goal of producing new textiles from used garments.

Sympatex is also involved in the Accelerating Circularity Europe (ACPE) project, which was developed to accelerate the textile industry’s transition from linear to circular production. The project aims to reduce the millions of tons of textile waste that end up in landfills annually by utilizing the resources in existing textiles for new products.

More details can be found here.

Sympatex has its own experts who deal with circular design in their daily work, advising brand partners and promoting initiatives. Our resulting Responsible Design Guide can be found here.

Sympatex laminates are free of harmful substances and are therefore safe for both humans and the environment. We have been deeply involved in substance management for many years and are pioneers in the field of functional textile specialists.

We completely avoid using PFAS, including PTFE. PFAS is a group of substances that, among others, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) classifies as extremely hazardous to health and the environment. PFAS do not occur naturally. Once produced, they are persistent substances, meaning they do not degrade, and remain permanently in our environment. They are strongly suspected of causing severe health issues such as cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, reduced vaccine effectiveness, and weakened immune systems.

Instead of these highly risky chemicals often used for other membranes, the Sympatex membrane is made from polyether-ester, a chain of polyester and polyether molecules. This makes it environmentally and skin-friendly and recyclable like a PET bottle. In terms of performance regarding windproofing, breathability, and waterproofing, fluorine-free polyester membranes and PTFE-based membranes are comparably high-level.

Sympatex has long advocated for a ban on PFAS and fluorine-based water-repellent treatments in the textile industry at the political level. In its «Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability» adopted in 2020, the EU took a stance for the first time and discussed a PFAS ban to meet its self-imposed zero-pollution goal. This ban is now close to adoption – an EU-wide restriction on the entire PFAS group is expected by 2025. This is a significant victory for humans and the environment. It has been a heartfelt matter for us to engage in this process politically and actively contribute to the legislative procedure with our decades of PFAS-free expertise.

A two-sided position paper and the corresponding report are available to view here.

Sympatex products are manufactured about two-thirds in Europe and about one-third in Asia. Our manufacturing sites in Asia are mainly in Taiwan and China. In Europe, Italy, Germany, and Belgium are our main production countries. Since we custom manufacture and avoid unnecessary transport routes, our choice of production location is often based on where the further processing of our laminates, i.e., the assembly by our customer, takes place.

We partially disclose our supply chain. You can find it here, as well as an aggregated supplier list of all members of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles on the Open Supply Hub.

Regarding the membrane, we can trace the supply chain back to the origin of the granulate. We also develop our laminates ourselves, allowing us to select the raw materials. This enables traceability of the supply chain back to the raw material, sometimes even to the material used in the yarn.

To continually increase transparency in our supply chain, we maintain regular communication with our suppliers, achieving a comparatively good understanding of our entire supply chain across the industry.

To gather information about the quality of our supply chain, we work with the HIGG FEM (Facility Environmental Module) and the HIGG FSLM (Facility Social Labor Module) from Worldly (formerly Sustainable Apparel Coalition), through which our suppliers provide us with detailed information.

We also calculate the CO2 footprint of our portfolio items using the Higg Tools. Therefore, we need all information about logistics and the corresponding electricity mix of the countries of origin – a transparent supply chain is essential for this.

For some product groups, we already guarantee traceability of the supply chain to the fibers used. This particularly applies to our recycled raw materials, where we require a GRS certificate or comparable certificates as proof of origin and quality, or we know the entire supply chain up to the yarn.

As a medium-sized company, Sympatex is not required to publish a sustainability report. Our last sustainability report was published in 2020 (here). Nevertheless, we take our due diligence obligations seriously, continuously work towards achieving our ambitious sustainability goals, and communicate our actions publicly through various channels.

Additionally, we report through various formats to validate our actions and make them publicly understandable and transparent:

  • Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien: Sympatex has been a member of the Textile Alliance since 2015. Since 2018, all member companies are required to conduct a risk analysis and create an individual roadmap on topics such as substance management, environment, social standards, and fibers, and to publish their progress. The report can be publicly viewed here.
  • B Corp: B Corp is a global movement of companies actively working towards an ecologically sustainable and socially just future. To obtain the recognized certification, we undergo a comprehensive and ambitious audit covering governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. In 2019, 2021, and 2022, Sympatex was among the top 5% in the environment category and was awarded as a “Best for the World” B Corp. The report can be publicly viewed here.
  • HIGG BRM: Through the Brand and Retail Module of Worldly (formerly Sustainable Apparel Coalition), we annually validate our status on environmental, social, and governance topics and monitor our performance.

Sympatex is a member of Cascale (formerly Sustainable Apparel Coalition) and uses the Higg MSI (Material Sustainability Index) to calculate the greenhouse gases and water consumption of membranes, tapes, laminates, clothing, and shoes. Additionally, Sympatex collaborates with ClimatePartner, an agency specializing in eco-balancing and CO2 compensation. This partnership provides Sympatex access to recognized emissions databases such as IPCC and ecoinvent.

Yes! Sympatex functional textiles already meet the requirements of the European Ecodesign Directive. This directive demands that products be durable, recyclable, repairable, energy- and resource-efficient, contain recycled materials, and provide data such as environmental footprints (source). Sympatex laminates already fulfill all these criteria.

It is particularly important for us to emphasize that our products not only meet the durability requirement but are also recyclable. We believe it is crucial that these two requirements go hand in hand, as durability alone is not enough. Even a product that is used for a long time should be able to be reintroduced into the value cycle at the end of its life to be used as a valuable resource again. For us, an ideal textile industry is 100% circular, meaning no waste is generated.

Our monomaterial concept based on polyester enables us to easily return all laminates to the closed textile loop at the end of their product life cycle.