At a meeting in 2014, a PrimaLoft product manager recalled stumbling upon a piece of “compostable” packaging. Sitting in a boardroom at the company’s Latham, N.Y., headquarters, a sudden brain wave seized her: “Why can’t we just make a jacket insulation that we can bury in the backyard?” she asked.
PrimaLoft is no stranger to “what ifs” and “why nots.” Its synthetic fill has been giving duck and goose down a run for its money since the ’80s, when U.S. Army Research Laboratory commissioned Albany International, PrimaLoft’s former parent company, to create a high-loft, polyester-based alternative to feathered insulation. Albany International delivered, and a new breed of weatherproof stuffing was born.
Animal-rights’ activists aren’t fans of the real deal, of course: Less vigilant brands and retailers can end up sourcing their down from live-plucked birds or ducks and geese that have been force-fed for the production of foie gras.
But plastic, which PrimaLoft essentially traffics in, has gained a bad rap in the ensuing decades. Stitched and woven into clothes, polyester and its petroleum-derived ilk have been found to contribute to microplastic pollution, an issue of such burgeoning import that even the U.K.’s Prince Harry felt compelled to weigh in on the matter during a recent visit to a litter-strewn beach in Melbourne, Australia.