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Exhibitions and Conferences

Dornbirn-GFC 2021 – debating the future

Virtual deep dive into the manmade fibres industry.

9th September 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Dornbirn, Austria

Clothing/​Footwear, Industrial

Sustainability and the circular economy will be foremost on the agenda at the 60th Dornbirn Global Fiber Congress (GFC) Congress which begins next Wednesday (September 15th).

Keynote speakers on the first day of the three-day conference will include Lenzing’s COO Robert van de Kerkhoff, who will address the need for new business models for the fibres and textiles supply chain.

“Many of today’s material solutions do not align with biological principles and the laws of physics,” he said at last year’s conference. “The laws that drive natural material cycles make it impossible to isolate the technical ones and our manmade material loops inevitably always leak. What would the fibre industry look like if it functioned as a natural ecosystem?”

He cited natural phenomena such as the spider’s web and honeycombs as providing the answers to exploiting advanced strength, structure, light reflection, adhesives, and many other functional properties in circular new materials.

“All of Lenzing’s fibres are based on CO2 and sunlight and renewable carbon is the only answer,” van de Kerkhoff said. “Off-setting makes no sense and we will only do it in the short term in areas where solutions are not yet available. Biomass, CO2 and recycling are the answers, but creative partnerships and government support are really important.

“Covid-19 is significant in that it saw the growth of fibres drop in 2020, with a 3-4% recovery expected, but do we want to just go back to the old normal? Everything up to now has been driven by volume growth but maybe we should not aim for this growth to continue and start looking at true value growth. We can’t afford to go back.”

Another keynote speaker will be Uday Gill, CEO of Indorama Ventures (IVL), who has enthused in the past about synthetic fibres and plastics more generally.

“Plastic is a material that can be endlessly recycled and it really is a miraculous material,” he said. “It does not deteriorate and can be used a thousand times. The problem is not with plastic, but human irresponsibility, so let’s fix that. With plastics, we have turned a perfect solution for many good things into a problem, but action is really starting now, and this problem will eventually be fixed.”

Also scheduled to speak on the first day of the Dornbirn-GFC, and bringing different perspectives that will ensure lively debate, are  Martin Bethke, managing direcor of the World Wildlife Fund, and key representatives from the paper industry, which to date has proved much more adept at establishing circular systems than the manmade fibres industry.

“Outstanding new ideas will create a live feeling during the conference, motivate networking and promote a unique learning experience,” said Friedrich Weninger, managing director of the Austrian Fibers Institute. “Top experts from industry and research will present the latest scientific results and ninety lecture slots have already been allocated, taking place in parallel in two lecture halls. Panel discussions, breakout sessions and virtual meeting lounges will provide opportunities for networking and information exchange.”

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