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Virgin polyester or simply, polyester, as it would be marked on a clothing label is not a particularly wonderful material in regards to production, health and environmental impact. Recycled polyester is an energy hungry, water consuming, non-sustainable synthetic fibre, but luckily there is in fact a ‘green’ version of polyester – the process of it’s creation is nothing like that of the aforementioned evil counterpart.
Polyester is a man-made fibre which is synthesized from petrochemical products such as ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate, using a process called polymerization. The fibre is wrinkle resistant, easy to clean and quick to dry but on the other hand it is not very environmentally friendly – at all.
The production of this material involves industrial quantities of water, heavy chemicals and fossil fuels. The raw materials and by-products are toxic, pollute the surrounding water, the air and can cause several health problems.
Unlike polyester, recycled polyester uses PET plastics as the raw material. This is the same material that is used to make many of the overly consumed single use plastic water bottles. By using these plastic bottles, which have already been created it reduces the energy consumption needed for production, it removes the need for the extraction of further fossil fuels and it also prevents the bottles from going to a landfill site.
Plastic PET bottles are collected, sorted, washed and sterilised.
The prepared bottles are then sent through a machine which crushes and shreds the plastic into tiny flakes.
The flakes are then made into granules and ready to be processed into yarn.
The granules are then heated and passed through a spinneret machine to form the yarn, the yarn is then wound up on spools, baled and dyed.
For us at Charmio the recycled polyester is then blended in with GOTS organic cotton to create a long lasting, great to wear sustainable sweatshirt.
The end product is up to 59% more energy efficient (more if renewable energies are utilised), uses far fewer new resources, deals with a big problem created by plastic pollution and can be infinitely recycled in a closed loop – although the closed loop recyclable clothing industry is still a way off at the moment. Recycled Polyester is definitely a step in the right direction for an industry that has a lot to make up for.