Garments branded as made from ‘Recycled Polyester’ are made from PET bottles (the ones filling up our oceans).
To make the Recycled polyester fibre, the bottles are collected, compressed and shipped to processing facilities where they are ground into small flakes and then melted into small pellets. The pellets are then heated and spun into a yarn like fibre where it can then be made into different fabrics.
The major benefit of recycled polyester is it uses approx 30% less energy to make garments from this recycled fibre than virgin polyesters. The recycling processes save natural resources and lower greenhouse gas emissions in the use of chemicals. Also the amount of water used produce virgin polyester is a fraction of that used to grow cotton, and recycled polyester actually requires minimal water to produce. Recycled polyester also doesn't loose many of the benefits of virgin polyester, wicking moisture fast and drying fast, something cotton struggles with.
With over 650,000 tons of clothes sent to landfill every year, much of which has been produced using polyester, the need to produce "Closed Loop Manufacturing" is becoming much more of a requirement, using old garments to make new rather than polluting the world with our redundant garments.
”Recycled polyester” is often used when brands market their products as being more sustainable. Is it a claim that is always true? Not necessarily. If you use the term “more sustainable” you should define what the product is compared too. Check if it is “100 percent recycled” – a lot of the time it is a blend of virgin and recycled polyester that is used. And most importantly: the claim has to be certified by a third party. Compared to Virgin polyester then it is a more sustainable source, however it's not completely sustainable as it's still made from toxic oil. Compared to say, merino wool that just needs water and grass to grow, it is far from sustainable and while it is making use of the polyester bottles dumped in the ocean, it still pollutes every time you wash the garment and will eventually end up in landfill and take over 20 years to even start to degrade.
Is it true that recycled polyester is a more expensive material than virgin polyester? Yes, that is true. One reason is that virgin polyester is produced in much higher volumes and the process to produce the fibre is much simpler. International demand is growing and that will help make recycled polyester price competitive. Multinational sporting goods companies, such as Nike, were early in their use of recycled polyester and in recent years, even the giants in the fashion industry have begun to use it more and more. In the long term, the prices will level out and recycled polyester will become the expected choice for brands and consumers to purchase over virgin polyester.
Some facts about RPET
Recycling 1 ton of PET containers saves approx. 5.7 square metres of landfill space.
Around 90% less water is used in making recycled polyester versus polyester.
RPET requires 70 percent less energy than virgin fibre production.
Currently RPET costs about 15 - 20 percent more than virgin fibre.
1 kg of RPET (made with 100% post-consumer waste) can keep 60 water bottles out of landfill.
Recycling 1 plastic bottle saves the equivalent of 3 hours of energy from a 60 watt light bulb.
51 billion plastic bottles go to landfill annually worldwide.Plastic bottles in U.S. landfills could wrap around the earth 5 times.
Only 7% of all plastic generated in 2009 was recovered for recycling.
At Blue Associates Sportswear we are working closely with the major fabric mills and making real advances in the use of recycled polyester.
If you’re looking to create performance sportswear using recycled polyester or would like to discuss other options that are sustainable and friendlier to the planet, please get in touch.