Polyester is no stranger. If you’ve been a fast fashion consumer long enough, your wardrobe has probably been stocked with more poly-blends than you’d care to admit. It’s cheap, easily adaptable to bright prints and colours, wrinkle-free and a fast-fashion favourite. But, it's been silently doing more hard than good for years now.
Polyester is a synthetic plastic-based fibre made from a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum (from crude oil), air and water — two of its ingredients are the largest polluting industries in the world. What’s more, the fabric is not biodegradable and won’t decompose for 20 years at best and 200 years at worst, depending on conditions. Additionally, every time we add some poly-blend clothing to our wash load, more than 4,500 micro plastics can be released into the water that is polluting our oceans. So why are we still choosing a fabric that’s choking the planet?
Recycled polyester or rPET is made by melting down existing plastic and re-spinning it into new polyester fibre. Compared to virgin polyester, rPET requires much less energy to be made. Furthermore, using the recycled alternative reduces our dependence on petroleum as a raw material and encourages the recycle of plastic bottles that could potentially end up in a landfill, exacerbating an existing problem.
This soft yet tough fabric is a more sustainable option than its conventional counterpart, but maintains all the properties and characteristics like polyester. However, recycled polyester could strive to be a lot better. A common misunderstanding is that plastic can be recycled back into the same quality it was in its virgin state (known as a “closed loop”), but this isn’t the case. Every time polyester is melted down, it loses strength and quality and must be used for a lower quality purpose than was originally intended — to put into perspective, plastic once used in a drink bottle can never be made into a drink bottle again. Recycled PET is also more energy and emission intensive than linen, wool, hemp and even conventional cotton.
Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2020-02-18