Sunbury Design: Innovative Recycled Commercial Fabrics

We’ve been working with Essex-based Sunbury Design for many years. They consistently provide one of the best ranges of fabrics for commercial interiors with amazing customer service. At the HIX (Hotel Interiors Expo) back in November 2021, we were introduced to their brand new range of fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles collected from beaches. We felt we needed to share the excitement. So, we met up with James Lewis of Sunbury Design to discuss the fabric, the pitfalls of ‘green’ labels and how the textile industry has a duty to develop sustainable processes and materials.

Tell us about your new recycled range!

We have actually launched 3 recycled ranges! A textured weave, a plain velvet and a print. These are upholstery ranges and can be used throughout the hospitality sector, cruise ships, restaurants, hotels, you name it.

They are made from recycled fibre by a company called REPREVE, which supplies huge brands worldwide. We are so excited that this well respected and high performing brand will be in our fabric ranges. The fabric fibres are made from ocean-bound plastic bottles taken from within 50km of coastline in locations across the world that lack recycling infrastructure.

Does the fabric comply with GRS standards and can you briefly explain what that means?

Yes! Global Recycling Standard – the ranges comply by virtue of being made with REPREVE yarn which is a GRS accredited fibre.

Are there any complications involved in using recycled bottle fabric?

We had to ensure that the CRIB 5 is halogen-free and that our easy clean treatment which has become an essential part of hospitality specifications by interior designers is PFC free. This has been tricky as it is used to achieve high performing oil-repellent properties but PFCs are not natural products and are among the most potent type of greenhouse gases as a result of human activity. The products needing to be halogen and PFC free have somewhat limited our choice of yarn and we accept that at this very early stage there has to be some compromise.

In terms of longevity, these perform no differently from the rest of our ranges which are designed to last in high traffic environments and withstand a lot of abuse.

What other environmental considerations are taken into account at Sunbury?

We have already received green mark accreditation and it is part of a wider range of options we have looked at into becoming more sustainable as a business. In the past couple of years, we have moved away from producing sample books with plastic protection on the front and large amounts of cardboard on the back and top. We are now producing “hangers” which have very little cardboard or plastic and can also be produced in house. As these are also smaller books they use less fabric and therefore less is produced across the whole process.

Our pattern cards which have become a more commonly used feature for interior designers with the emergence of WFH where space is in short supply are all recycled. It is not just our newest recycled ranges that have environmentally friendly properties…our long-standing Aqua-Clean ranges of which there are 10, are all OEKO-TEX rated, where every part of the fabric has been tested for harmful substances to human health and has passed successfully. On top of this, the construction of the Aqua-Clean products means that they only need to be cleaned with a cloth and water, and don’t require any cleaning detergents which can be harmful to the atmosphere.

Are there any other green products in the pipeline? What’s the environmental plan for Sunbury? How do you think things will change in the contract furniture/textile industry?

Yes, we hope that these three will be the first of many recycled ranges we launch in the coming years and over time we intend to roll out technologies like recycled yarns and halogen-free FR on our existing lines where possible.

In terms of the future, like all industries, the contract/furniture market can and must do more in order to help bring the world closer to net zero. Investing in recyclable contract FR furniture and fabrics is one such step as it is crucial that once a chair, sofa or headboard has been used in say a hotel it does not then go to landfill and can be reused in some way. This at the moment is extremely difficult and not financially viable for a lot of companies. However, it is something that we are all striving to achieve.