How PET bottles convert to recycled Polyester garments

Today, the utilization of recycled materials is matter-of-fact, although in virtually no other sector is it quite as advanced as it is in the case of the manufacture of man-made fibers. Recycling is important in today’s world if we want to leave this planet for our future generations. It is good for the environment, since we are making new products from the old products which are of no use to us.

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In the fashion industry, recycling plays an important role. The clothing industry is a heavy user of resources and an equally heavy polluter. It is a consumer industry that by its nature encourages people to buy and discard clothing according to the fashion of the day rather than in terms of durability or environmental impact. Environmental fashion, organic fashion, and recycled fabrics are attempts to alter the status quo.

So we can help the clothing industry to become more sustainable by buying more Eco-friendly fashion products. Did you know that used PET bottles can be recycled and used to produce high grade fibers?  Let’s see how!

The green version of the polyester textile is the “Recycled Polyester”. Unlike polyester, recycled polyester uses PET as the raw material. This is the same material that is used in clear plastic water bottles, and recycling it to create the fabric prevents it from going to landfill. Recycled polyester, however overcomes most of the disadvantages of conventional polyester which are

  1. The fabric of the Polyester is not environment friendly – Production of the fabric involves huge quantities of water, chemicals and use of fossil fuels. The raw materials and by-products are toxic, pollute water and air and cause several health issues.
  2. Apart from the environmental factor, the non-biodegradable fabric has an artificial shine and feel – it’s not generally a nice fabric to touch, to look at and particularly to wear. It doesn’t breathe like cotton or other natural fibres, which makes the experience of wearing polyester hot and sweaty.

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Therefore the recycled polyester is environment friendly and is good on skin too. Five million plastic bottles that could have been choking marine life or filling up landfills have been given a second chance. Billabong extends its green charge to include a new material called Eco Supreme Suede, a material made from recycled textiles and plastic soda bottles (PET). This exclusive material is used to create sleek surf shorts and bikinis. Approximately 10 plastic soda bottles are used to create a single pair of boardshorts.

Plastic bottles are made of polyethylene (PET), a form of polyester that is mostly associated with a fabric used in clothing and interiors. However both are actually polymers, a derivative of fossil fuels. The fabric made out of the PET fiber is basically polypropylene and it is ten times stronger than a normal polyester fabric.

The steps involved in the production process are as follows –

  1. The collected PET bottles are sterilized, dried and crushed into small chips.
  2. The chips are heated and passed through a spinneret to form strings of yarn.
  3. This yard is wound up in spools.
  4. The fiber is then passed through a crimping machine to create a fluffy texture.
  5. This yarn is then baled, dyed and knitted into polyester fabric.

We can see how the products at the various steps of re-polymerization of PET look

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Here’s a video which explains this process in detail – 

 

This process of converting PET into recycled polyester requires much less energy than in the case of normal polyester. In fact it takes 33-53% less energy. Isn’t that a huge difference? There are two main advantages to this process:

  • Using more recycled polyester reduces our dependence on petroleum as the raw material for our fabric needs.
  • Diverting PET bottles for this process reduces landfill, and thus less soil contamination, air and water pollution.

Another benefit is that the garments created from recycled polyester can be recycled again and again with no degradation of quality, allowing us to minimize wastage. This means garment manufacture could potentially become a closed loop system, polyester could forever be reused and recycled.

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There is a huge demand for recycled fabrics internationally, especially in Europe because of its Eco-friendly and good on skin properties. Some of the European brands which use recycled fabrics in garment are Esprit, Ecoalf and Printa.

In India as well there are companies, which have put up PET phase capacities. As per the estimates, India produces 500,000 tonnes of pet waste every year and due to increasing use of pet bottles in daily consumption, the amount of waste is going to grow by leaps and bounds.

Here is the list of companies in India which are PET recyclers – http://icpeenvis.nic.in/index3.aspx?sslid=860&subsublinkid=220&langid=1&mid=1

As things are moving it would not take too long for fabrics made out of PET bottles to get popular with consumers especially for industrial garment and sportswear. The demand of course has to percolate from the buyers’ end and when there is demand, the developments will take place. How soon the concept spreads, that is still to be speculated as the technology is expensive but then it’s environment-friendly preposition which is buyer’s first concern.

 

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