FABRIC GUIDE: RECYCLED POLYESTER
Since it was first developed in the 1920s, to it’s booming popularity in the post-war economy, polyester has been a staple fabric in the textile industry. Polyester is everywhere – Textile Exchange even reported it as the most used fibre on the planet – and you might be wearing it right now. From clothing to bags and footwear, polyester is an incredibly versatile fabric, and every fashion retailer uses it to some degree in their product composition.
While it’s often praised for its durability, strength, crease resistance and minimal water consumption, polyester has proven to have a dramatically negative impact on the environment. So, what exactly is polyester and how can we, as a member of this industry, work towards making it more sustainable?
FROM PLASTIC TO FABRIC
Polyester is a completely synthetic material and, like many plastics, is usually derived from petroleum. Yes, your clothes are made from crude oils! Conventional polyester production requires ethylene, ethylene glycol and para-xylene, a chemical compound used to make terephthalic acid (TPA), to create polyethylene terephthalate or what’s commonly known as PET.
You’ll see PET mentioned in a lot of product care labels, and even at the base of reusable plastic containers like your Tupperware and lunch boxes.
From a consumer care perspective, polyester clothing seems sustainable as it lasts a really long time and uses less water, energy, and heat for washing. However, many recent studies have shown that every time you wash polyester it sheds small pieces of fabric called microplastics into the wastewater, which eventually gets fed out into estuaries and oceans. Trace amounts of microplastics from polyester clothing has even been found in the digestive systems of marine life!
The incredibly long lifespan of polyester is also a double-edged sword. While your polyester jacket may last you upwards of 10 years with the right care, are you likely to wear it for that long? The cycle of fast fashion is all about micro-trends, which means more and more clothing is headed straight for landfill where it fails to break down due to its chemical makeup.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
We already know that plastic can be recycled into other plastics, and the same goes for polyester. Improvements in technology has led to the development of recycled polyester, or rPET, which is becoming increasingly common in the manufacturing of textiles and fabrics.
Since many clothing items are made with blended fabrics, it’s challenging to recycle old clothes into new ones. rPET is most often made from post-consumer waste like single-use plastic bottles, which helps to divert plastic from landfills. Overall, the production of rPET also requires up to 53% less energy than is needed to make a virgin polyester fabric.
WHERE & WHY WE USE RPET
While recycled polyester is generally considered more eco-friendly than virgin polyester, it unfortunately still sheds microplastics in the wash. The easiest way to combat this is to wash your clothing in a garment bag, and for manufacturers to use rPET to make items that require less washing. This is why we often use it to make our puffer jackets, bags, and footwear!
By using recycled polyester to make investment pieces, we aim to help mitigate the growing problem of plastic pollution while also creating unique designer pieces that you can wear again and again.
At Replay, we understand the importance of helping lessen the burden on our planet through conscious manufacturing and production processes. The fashion industry is responsible for much of the pollution currently affecting our ecosystems, and so we are taking steps to minimise our carbon footprint as much as possible through the use of renewable, recycled and organic materials.