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FTC recognizes new fiber category

Minnetonka, MN — The Federal Trade Commission has designated a new generic fiber category, PLA, that includes the Cargill Dow trade name, NatureWorks.

PLA, explained Andy Shafer, Cargill Dow's commercial director for fibers, is polylactide, derived from carbons stored in plant starches like corn.

Cargill Dow launched market-ready fabrics and floor coverings at NeoCon last summer and will soon launch a collection of comforters and bed pillows through Pacific Coast Feather using NatureWorks fibers.

PLA is the first new broad generic fiber designation in decades, Shafer said, citing spandex as the next most recent example. Other niche fiber generics such as elastoester and lyocel were designated in the 1990s, he added.

The PLA designation requires "a fiber to be a synthetic manufactured from polylactic acid or poly lactate derived from naturally occurring sugars such as used in corn or sugar beets," Shafer related.

Product development for NatureWorks covers a broad area, Shafer reported, with developmental work proceeding in mattress tickings and fiberfill for mattresses as well as non-woven applications and apparel such as outwear, fleece and knits.

The advantage properties vary from product to product but include "fantastic loft and resilience, wicking, moisture transport and drapability, UV [ultraviolet] stability and flame resistance," he said.

Cargill Dow recently completed a PLA manufacturing facility in Blair, NE, which has a 300-million-pound capacity per year. Fiber Innovation Technologies of Johnson City, TN, Unifi of Greensboro, NC, and Parkdale, of Gastonia, NC, are producing the staple, filament and spun fibers, respectively.

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