Single use plastics are damaging our planet in a big way. Some brands are finding ways to combat this by using more sustainable fabrics. Recycled Polyester which you may also know as rPet, eConyl, and Repreve is a way to give plastics a second use. The fabric like normal polyester is very diverse and can look and feel many different ways. Brands like Patagonia and Reformation have been using recycled polyester for years. But is it a good sustainable option? Let's see how it's made and why you could consider using it.
Benefits of Polyester
Since polyester is made from plastic, you may have wondered why it became such a staple for so many brands over the last few decades. Brands have become very comfortable sourcing polyester over the years because it's a durable but soft option and performs well in the following ways:
• Retains shape well
• Takes dyes better
• Dries quickly
• Durable & lightweight
How is Recycled Polyester Different?
Recycled polyester uses the same technique as traditional polyester by melting small plastic chips down and spinning them into yarn, however they use single use plastic bottles to supply their plastic chips and divert waste from landfills. Overall recycled polyester reduces water use and green house gases along with using 33-53% less energy. It takes 5 soda bottles to produce an XL t-shirt and using clear color bottles is key as they provide a better base to apply dyes. Given the amount of single use bottles in the world, you can see this is a cost effective option that also addresses a large waste issue. Patagonia has been recycling bottles and using it for fabric for years.
Recycled Polyester vs. Natural Fibers
The sustainable community loves natural fibers because they reduce plastic use and are easier to recycle into new fabric again if recycled correctly. But one of the factors that makes Recycled Polyester a sustainable option compared to natural fibers is that is does not require land for production. Cotton production uses a lot of water whereas recycled polyester does not. Natural fibers cannot be recycled in the same way if they are a blend (which many fabrics today are) and can take years to decompose especially if they are treated with any chemicals for performance. With tons of clothes being put in landfills each year the recycling of fabrics is becoming more necessary to address.
Suffice it to say, brands can consider using recycled polyester as a sustainable fabric option. Innovation in the textile science world has been growing rapidly over the last 5-7 years and we are excited to see where it continues to go as these new startups scale. If you are looking for sustainable fabrics you can grab our Sustainable Sourcing Directory here. And if you are ready to find an experienced ethical factory to produce your collection and work with you on your sustainability - join the THR3EFOLD Ethical Manufacturing Platform launching in June. Join the waitlist today to get first access and an early bird rate.