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How Is Recycled Polyester Made?

Jun. 17, 22

Pet Bottle Flakes

Pet Bottle Flakes

Rather than using crude oil as the raw material, recycled polyester uses already produced polyester. This is usually in the form of plastic drink bottles and other easy to source and clean post-consumer materials, but can also include off-cuts of fabric and recycled clothing.  


The Process of Turning Trash into Fabric Goes Like This:

1. Your recycled bottles are collected, sorted & baled.

2. The bales are chopped into small pieces, called "flake".

3. Those pieces are then cleaned and the labels are removed.

4. The flake is then turned into more formed, smaller pieces called "chip".

5. The chip is melted and extruded into extremely thin filaments and  bundled into a yarn.

6. The yarn is stretched over heated rubber rollers to change its molecular structure from being like dental floss to something closer to wool. From there, it is spooled together and ready to be woven into fabric.


Why Is Recycled Polyester Better?

One of the most significant benefits is that it creates a demand for post-consumer plastics, keeping them out of landfill. Each year, 51 billion plastic bottles go into landfill worldwide, with many of these later finding their way into our oceans. By the year 2050, scientists predict that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by mass. Changing our consumer choices creates a demand for recycled product, which in turn can help reduce the amount of plastic diverted to landfill.

Aside from reducing landfill, the production of recycled polyester has significant environmental advantages over virgin polyester:

ㆍ90% less water is used in making recycled polyester versus polyester.

ㆍRPET requires 70 percent less energy than virgin fibre production.

ㆍRPET fabric has a 50% lower carbon footprint than organic cotton.

ㆍRPET polyester fabric has almost a 90% lower carbon footprint than nylon.

ㆍRPET polyester fabric has a 75% lower carbon footprint than polyester.


What Are The Advantages of Recycled Polyester?

ㆍFirstly, because polyester accounts for over half of fibres used in the textile and apparel industry - replacing it with a recycled alternative is instantly going to be better at reducing dependency on fossil fuels. The development of a popular non-virgin alternative will have a positive impact on energy requirements in the future. This will act as a tool to help brands cut their greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain.

ㆍSecondly, recycled polyester helps to reduce the seismic waste in the fashion industry that sees over 48 million mt of clothes disposed annually. It is an intuitive way to find value in waste and encourages positive recycling behaviours. It also introduces shoppers to the innovative possibilities of sustainable fabrics.

ㆍAnother benefit is that recycled polyester has a smaller carbon footprint than virgin polyester. A 2017 research study found that manufacturing rPET generates 79% less carbon emissions than producing its virgin counterpart. So, using recycled polyester may help brands meet their climate targets and contribute to the 2015 Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

Transforming plastic into fabric works as one way to help minimise the 8 million tons of plastic that find themselves in our oceans every year. This can help to protect marine ecosystems and underwater wildlife that is often endangered by plastic pollution.

ㆍFinally, adopting recycled fibres like recycled polyester, can foster collaboration within the fashion industry and promote change. For example, the Textile Exchange in 2019 challenged over 50 brands including Adidas, GAP and H & M to increase their use of recycled polyester by 25% by 2020. They achieved this before the deadline and increased their use by 36%. More organisations are joining the movement and have pledged to make 20% of all global polyester recycled by 2030 - a really important goal for curbing emissions and removing reliance on fossil fuels.  


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