Feature Stories Alumni: Mike Joyce '85: Bringing PrimaLoft's research in biodegradability to UMassD

Mike Joyce
Feature Stories Alumni: Mike Joyce '85: Bringing PrimaLoft's research in biodegradability to UMassD
Mike Joyce '85: Bringing PrimaLoft's research in biodegradability to UMassD

Joyce, CEO of PrimaLoft, Inc., sparked the creation of a biodegradability testing lab at UMassD to study the breakdown of microplastics

When Mike Joyce’s team at PrimaLoft, Inc. needed a way to test its new biodegradable, recycled insulation and fabric, he knew just where to go—UMass Dartmouth, an institution that has been on the cutting edge of textile technology since 1895.

As a 1985 graduate of UMass Dartmouth and a member of the College of Engineering advisory board, Joyce, president/CEO of PrimaLoft, was already familiar with the research initiatives in the areas of sustainability and the Blue Economy that would make his alma mater the ideal place to launch a testing facility for PrimaLoft’s new biodegradable products. He pitched the idea of creating a lab at UMass Dartmouth that would benefit his company, students, the region, and the environment.

The result will be the spring 2022 opening of the UMass Dartmouth Plastics Biodegradation Laboratory financed by PrimaLoft’s $450,000 investment, paired with a $740,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

“This partnership gives us an opportunity to not only provide testing capabilities for PrimaLoft, but also additional opportunities for research in sustainable products and biodegradation,” said Joyce. “I believe it could be a magnet for future investment and research dollars to the study of biodegradation of synthetic materials.”

The new lab will be located in the School for Marine Science and Technology to leverage existing facilities, including controlled seawater systems, analytical instrumentation, and water quality and microbiology expertise.

“This is a natural fit for PrimaLoft, UMassD, and the SouthCoast, with its history of textiles and marine science research,” said Joyce.

Exploring the future of textile technology at UMassD

“PrimaLoft’s mission is to unleash the full potential of people, products, and the planet,” Joyce said. “We believe that you can have innovation, performance, and sustainability together.”

PrimaLoft is a leader in the future of textile technology, a future that is not far away. The advanced material science company specializes in the development of high-performance insulations and fabrics found in the products of top world-wide outdoor, fashion, and home goods brands such as Patagonia, L.L.Bean, Adidas, New Balance, and more. Its new PrimaLoft Bio technology repurposes plastic water bottles into recycled polyester. The polyester is then modified to allow micro-organisms that naturally occur in landfills and marine environments to accelerate the biodegradation process. Testing the biodegradability of PrimaLoft’s products will take place at the new lab.

The lab will provide a critical service for PrimaLoft, but will also play a role in the goal to conduct research and advance the science in a location where textiles and marine science has been an integral part of the culture, history, and economy. “It is an enormous opportunity to lead the textile industry to becoming more environmentally responsible,” said Joyce.

Acquiring a work ethic as a UMassD student

Joyce has worked in all aspects of textile development, from research and development to sales to marketing to product management. In every role, the skills and core competencies he acquired at UMass Dartmouth helped him to continually advance.

“Students at UMass Dartmouth today aren’t much different from me and my classmates—we’re all hardworking,” Joyce said. Working side jobs while taking classes helped him learn how to prioritize. “It’s just what we did. We weren’t afraid of work.”

As he entered the workforce, Joyce followed opportunities, even when it seemed risky to change career roles. Along the way, he shaped a personal mission to improve how we live.

“What’s gratifying is to be able to do work that has an impact on people and improving the environment with our technology—things I never thought I’d be doing in textile technology. My passion wasn’t for textiles, but what I’ve developed over the years is a commitment to doing things the right way for the environment. That allowed me to take all my experiences from UMass Dartmouth and my career and turn it into something positive.”