Greenpeace recently called polyester the ‘Achilles heel’ of fast fashion, making up around 60% of clothing worldwide. In the early 2000s, global demand for polyester outstripped cotton to become the most in-demand fibre in the world. Today, there is twice as much demand for polyester compared with cotton.
Many brands are now opting for the recycled alternatives to conventional / ‘virgin’ synthetic fabrics. Most recycled polyester is made from pre or post-consumer waste, such as plastic bottles or fishing nets. These synthetic yarns can be made into almost any fabric; jersey, fleece, knit and woven.
What is recycled polyester?
Polyester is a manmade fibre that is synthesised from petrochemical products, whereas recycled polyester [rRecycled polyethylene terephthalate, or rPET for short ] is made using recycled PET from water bottles. Recycled polyester not only diverts waste from landfills and production, but also uses less water, energy and fossil fuels.
How is recycled polyester made ?
1. Plastic bottles are collected from the ocean or diverted from landfills.
2. These bottles are stripped of their labels, cleaned, crushed and chopped into flakes.
3. These flakes are melted into chips or pellets.
4. The pellets are then melted and extruded to make fibres which in turn are made into yarn and woven or knitted into fabric. At this stage, fibres can also be blended with other fibres such as organic cotton.
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Written by Flora Davidson, Co-Founder of Supplycompass.