The problem with PFCs has everything to do with its chemistry.
“The carbon-fluorine bond as found in PFCs is one of the strongest bonds known to man,” Columbia said. “Due to the incredible strength of this bond, PFCs don’t break down readily in the environment.”
They’re also bioaccumulative in animals and humans, meaning the chemicals persist in various tissues instead of being catabolized or excreted.
“This accumulation issue can have adverse effects and has been the source of significant discussion amongst environmental advocacy groups and outdoor brands,” the company said.
To circumvent the use of PFCs, Columbia decided to overhaul the traditional rain-jacket design. Instead of using a porous outer fabric and then treating it with a water repellant, Columbia chose to eliminate that layer altogether.
In its place? An abrasion-resistant yet breathable membrane that allows moisture to escape while keeping out rain.
The retailer has even considered end-of-life disposal. After you’ve “explored the world, standing under waterfalls and enduring rainstorms,” you can return the jacket through Columbia’s ReThreads program, where it can be processed for a second go-around.
Still, Columbia admits that its new technology is not a perfect solution.
“While we’re clearly excited to introduce OutDry Extreme Eco to you in early 2017, we’re also humbled by the challenge that remains,” Columbia said. “We’re also very conscious of the fact that while OutDry Extreme Eco offers a PFC-free alternative, it does not solve the problem PFC issue entirely.”
The firm says it’ll still be using short-chain PFCs, which supposedly break down faster and have less potential toxicity than their longer-chain counterparts, a in a “majority of [its] waterproof products, at least in the near term.
“We are committed to the pursuit of non-fluorinated alternatives across our product lines that meet your performance expectations. Consider OutDry Extreme Eco a significant milestone in our commitment to keep you dry and protected, while also helping to protect the environment,” Columbia said. “So while we’ve cleared that first boulder, there’s still a long climb ahead. And we’re excited that you’ll be joining us on the journey.”
The jacket, which will be available in two styles for both men and women, will have a suggested retail price of $199.