What is RPET fabric?
We have been eagerly promoting our new workout shorts as ‘made from recycled PET’, but what does this actually mean?
PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, is the type of plastic used in the manufacture of objects such as water bottles. While this is a very sturdy, useful product in modern day life, once made, the stuff is on the Earth practically forever. We all do our bit to reduce, reuse and recycle, but we rarely think about what happens to our bottles once they go in the truck. Luckily, there are some very clever individuals out there who have developed ways to make the most of PET’s longevity and continuously create something new from our rubbish.
From water bottle to textile
Whether we meant to or not, most of us have bought other plastic products made from recycled PET, such as plastic containers or packaging materials. You may be surprised to find out that this seemingly hard, inflexible product can create the most amazing fabrics too!
This is good news for us all, and great news for our planet. Manufacturing recycled polyester fabric uses up to 35 per cent less energy than the manufacturing process of regular polyester fabric and, for every million plastic bottles recycled, 180 metric tons less of carbon dioxide emissions end up in our atmosphere. Both post-consumer and post-industrial RPET are used, which includes everything from your old juice bottles to packaging and plastic offcuts from factories.
How does plastic become polyester fabric?
The process for mechanically creating RPET fabric is pretty simple (on paper at least!), and goes a little something like this:
- PET products are collected, sorted, sterilised, dried and crushed into small chips.
- The chips are then heated and passed through a machine that forms strings of yarn, a bit like dental floss.
- The yarn is then ready for use as per any other polyester yarn. It is textured, dyed and woven into a brand new fabric.
- The recycled PET fabric is purchased by companies like TnG Apparel to create new garments for you. One pair of our men’s shorts, for example, uses the equivalent of 4-5 plastic bottles! One pair of winter tights uses the equivalent RPET of up to 25 water bottles.
The recycling potential of PET is infinite; it can be continuously re-manufactured into new products and the creativity in this department is only just beginning. As an eco-conscious sportswear manufacturer, we are keen to see where the boundaries extend to and what other types of fabrics can benefit from this reinvention.
So, next time you toss an old plastic bottle into the recycling bin, think about the many extraordinary ways it can now be recycled – even beginning a new life as a pair of workout shorts!