The new function of polyester
In order to be recycled into something new and useful, plastic garbage does not have to first fall into the ocean. Most food packages – milk and water bottles, boxes for vegetables and fruits and much more – are all made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. Pet is a thermoplastic of the polyester class, which can easily be processed into fibers. It’s these fibers have the trade name ‘polyester’.
Polyester, obtained from recycled PET, is labeled ‘recycled polyester’, but it is almost impossible to distinguish it from primary raw materials. Among the companies that use recycled polyester in production of their items are sports brands like Nike and Patagonia (fleece is their most popular material, and did you know that it’s made from polyester?), as well as the Swedish giant H&M – recycled synthetic fabrics form the basis of their ‘green’ line Conscious.
Don’t get me wrong, the use of recyclable materials for fabric creation is available not only to giant corporations. In 2014 Hungarian designer Apor Kovacs introduced the PET device, which is able to process plastic bottles into clothes. Yes, literally: you load a few bottles in, and the device recycles PET into raw materials for a 3D printer to print a new T-shirt or a dress. At that time the mass production of the gadget was not possible, but the idea was evaluated: the project won the Electrolux DesignLab 2014 contest.
With the use of recycled plastic, not only pure polyester is produced, but also a mixed material. The company Delonatelo is engaged in the creation and branding of T-shirts made from a mixture of recycled cotton and polyester. 40% of the polyester in the composition is provided by recycled PET, and cotton is produced by grinding old cotton items and cotton waste into fine dust, which is combined with polyester in the fiber. From such material, Delonatelo produced uniform shirts for the employees of IKEA Khimki in Moscow, Russia. IKEA is famous for its environmental initiatives and supports ‘green’ projects in different production sectors.
Can recycled polyester once become more accessible to the small companies and more cost-effective for the big ones? Well, my hope would be ‘yes’.
Fashion industry, as it often happens, is setting the trend and raising awareness around it, so it would be only logical that all other industries will follow one day or another.
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: Patagonia, Lyst, WWD