Eco-friendly Zippers to Be Manufactured Stateside by YKK

After five years of manufacturing its Natulon zippers from recycled materials, the Tokyo-based notions manufacturer YKK announced that it will bring production of these goods to the United States. While the foundation of YKK’s Natulon products has been to create products based upon manufacturing with PET bottles, unused fibers and remnants of other polyester materials, the company is looking to further reduce its carbon footprint by shrinking the distance in the apparel-production supply chain by producing these goods in Macon, Ga.

According to Brian Miller, director and business leader for pants and workwear industries at YKK U.S.A. Inc., this most recent decision by the company is simply an additional step toward the greater good, which has been a tenet of YKK’s mission since its founding.

“[Ever] since YKK was founded in 1934, all of our business activities have been guided by our ‘Cycle of Goodness’ philosophy, which embodies our belief that no one prospers without rendering benefit to others,” he explained via email. “Protecting the environment is no exception—in fact, our Environmental Pledge, which says that we will promote ‘harmony with the environment as the highest priority of our business activities,’ has been in effect since 1994.”

For every 10,000 Natulon zippers, which measure nearly 24 inches, YKK utilizes approximately 3,600 plastic bottles. By creating these products in the United States, the company will reduce its negative environmental impact and lead times to afford a more efficient supply chain to its customers. This move reduces the supply chain for YKK’s denim partners that rely on the company’s Natulon Material Recycled Tape for the production of jeans and related products in North and Central America.

“We feel that supporting our customers by producing our Natulon-material recycled zipper locally in Macon, Ga., is one of the best ways we can fulfill our mission as a company,” Miller said.

By including Natulon under its sustainable-trim category, YKK has been able to expand beyond zipper production by also producing snaps and buttons in Lawrenceburg, Ky. These notions are finished through a more ecologically sound process that bypasses electroplating in favor of its Elements finish. This process reduces water waste and water usage by 75 percent, or 150 gallons per production cycle, eliminates chelating agents and reduces electricity. Through this method, creating these products reduces thermal energy, toxic chemicals and overall waste.

The company’s commitment to becoming increasingly environmentally responsible also includes reducing carbon emissions that can be directly linked to manufacturing, in addition to indirect causes such as energy consumption at its factories, materials sourcing and transportation. Additionally, the company has offset an annual rate of 896 tons of CO2 after installing nearly 2,000 rooftop solar modules at its Anaheim, Calif., location in 2015.

“Today, every major brand is dedicated to environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing, sustainability awareness and creating a more sustainable industry,” Miller said. “They all have global corporate social-responsibility policies. This is especially important to younger consumers.”