Oct. 27, 2021
Nearly half of the world's clothing and textiles are made from polyester, and Greenpeace predicts that this number will nearly double by 2030. Why? More and more consumers are looking for textile products that are more resilient and durable.
Polyester is not a sustainable textile choice because it is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common type of plastic in the world. In short, most of our clothes come from crude oil, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for drastic action to keep the world's temperature at a maximum of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
The nonprofit Textile Exchange had asked more than 50 textile, apparel and retail companies to increase their use of recycled polyester by 25 percent. It worked: The organization issued a statement celebrating the fact that the signatories not only met the goal two years before the deadline, but actually exceeded it by increasing their use of recycled polyester by 36 percent. In addition, 12 other companies have committed to join the challenge this year. The organization predicts that 20 percent of all polyesters will be recycled by 2030.
Recycled polyester, also known as rPET, is obtained by melting down existing plastics and re-spinning them into new polyester fibers. While much attention has been given to rPET made from plastic bottles and containers discarded by consumers, polyethylene terephthalate can actually be recycled from post-industrial and post-consumer input materials. As an example, five soda bottles can produce enough fiber to make an oversized T-shirt.
Recycled polyester gives a second life to non-biodegradable materials that would otherwise end up in landfills or oceans. According to the non-governmental organization Ocean Conservancy, 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, compared to the estimated 150 million tons of plastic currently circulating in the marine environment. If we keep up this pace, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. 60 percent of seabirds and 100 percent of sea turtles have found plastic because they mistake it for food.
As for landfills, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2015 alone, the country's landfills received 26 million tons of plastic. The European Union estimates that its members will generate the same amount each year. Converting plastic waste into useful materials is important for both humans and our environment.
Recycled polyester is almost identical to virgin polyester in terms of quality, but it requires 59% less energy to produce than virgin polyester. The production of rPET reduces CO2 emissions by 32% compared to regular polyester. If you look at the life cycle assessment, rPET scores significantly better than virgin PET.
In addition, recycled polyesters help reduce the need to extract crude oil and natural gas from the earth to make more plastics. Using recycled polyester reduces our dependence on oil as a source of raw materials. It reduces discards, thereby extending the life of landfills and reducing toxic emissions from incinerators. It also helps facilitate a new recycling stream for polyester clothing that is no longer wearable.
Because polyester accounts for approximately 60 percent of the world's PET production -- about twice the amount used in plastic bottles -- developing a non-primitive supply chain for polyester fibers has the potential to have a huge impact on global energy and resource demand.
We manufacture recycled polyester microfiber towels and welcome your inquiries.