You probably heard a lot about Recycled Polyester these days, good things, others not so good. And some expressions such as New Life and Sequal have most definitely popped up when looking for this subject. But what are these anyways? Are they all recycled? Are they all polyesters? The answer is yes, and yes!
On this post we will go through the main recycled polyesters that are being used on the textiles industry nowadays. We will try to explain how they are obtained and how sustainable are they in the end.
The most common recycled polyester of them all is rPET. PET stands for polyester materials and fabrics (things you put on the recycling bin). And the little r on the beginning, as you might have already figured, stands for recycled.
The process on this one is quite simple; companies collect the materials we put on the plastic recycling containers and select it. They then grind it and form the polyester base. Which is after heated and extruded to form new threads and yarns. These will end up being used to produce new fabrics that will end up on your clothes.
Those who say these processes aren’t harmless to the nature have it wrong. You still use a lot of mechanical procedures that consume energy. But of course, the energy needed is less that to make virgin polyester.
The footprint and environmental impact are also reduced because by using old materials you are preventing them to be trashed in a landfill.
And, the most obvious fact in favor is the fact that by going recycled we are reducing our need for petroleum. Keeping our mother natures reserves safe.
As the pronunciation of the word is suggesting this one has something to do with the sea. If you were thinking this way, you are right! Long story short, Seaqual is polyester recovered from the oceans.
The process is pretty similar to the rPET, being the only difference the provenience of the materials to grind. Here the company goes for the marine debriefs. And you probably noticed we used the word company, singular, yes, because we are talking about a patented fiber.
The company, named Seaqual 4U, was born in 2016 and “established by three key players in the textile industry: the ECOLAF foundation, textile group SANTANDERINA and the ANTEX spinning mill”. Pioneers on the sales of fibers created by upcycling plastic waste, they collect all their material from the bottom of the sea. Roughly, for every kilo of fiber produced, a kilo of waste is taken out of the sea. Even though not all that waste goes to producing the fiber.
“SEAQUAL 4U has developed an ethical supply chain from the fishing boats to the consumers by involving all the different stakeholders within the textile industry (…) to encourage the clean-up of marine waste and the creation of ecologically sound yarns, fibers and fabrics.”
Once more, the name says a lot about this fiber, we already can tell we will be talking about re-using something. So, we are putting in action the R’s politic here, and we go further than just recycling.
Similar to Sequal, the process is quite the same as the first polyester, being the main difference, again, on the provenience of the material. If you hear about NewLife Polyester know that you are using solely postconsumer plastic bottles! This is also a certified and patented fiber, produced in Italy, one of the best suppliers on the industry chain through Europe.
And because one thing is to explain what you can find on the market as per materials, and other is to answer what people always ask about, we will be leaving a couple of common questions we usually receive from our costumers when sourcing for recycled polyesters.
Is recycled polyester different from virgin polyester on a fabric?
No, not really! A couple years ago, when the first fibers came up, you could see some differences, mainly on color and touch. But nowadays, with all the advances on the industry, and since “the recycling process reconstitutes the fiber on a molecular level” you can’t really tell the difference on the fabrics.
What are the benefits for the environment of choosing recycled polyester?
We have 3 main benefits for the footprint the textiles are leaving when opting for recycled pes. For once, you won’t be using new petroleum, so you will be lowering the use of natural resources and also reducing the carbon emissions on the extraction process. As it is a process mainly mechanic, you will use less energy to produce theses fibers, hence reducing CO2 emissions. In some cases, you are cleaning the oceans and the streets, and in other cases you are giving a new life to post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
As a client, is there anything we can use to show we are opting for this sort of materials?
Yes, a lot of our suppliers provide us with the certifications and some of them even have special labels we can add to your garments, stating you are using this sort of materials. NewLife for example has a platform where you can benefit from both a plan for trademark and a communication.
Does FLM work with suppliers that can provide this sort of fabrics?
Yes, we do! In fact, we are working toward getting the GRS certification which allows us to guarantee you we not only use recycled materials but we are also environmentally friendly in our processes and social approach.
Which is more sustainable, recycled polyester or organic cotton?
Although organic cotton is supposedly made without the usage of any chemicals that might harm the nature, we need to take in consideration the rest of the process used to obtain the yarn. Water and energy consumptions to work cotton are extremely high, and adding to that, only one-third of the harvest, roughly, is usable.
As for polyester, the water and energy consumption are lower than when obtaining the virgin fiber. And also, there are very little wastes in fiber production.
And that is it for today’s post! We expect to be back very shortly, in the meantime, feel free to go over our FAQ page, there you’ll find more information!
by Cláudia Noversa