In 2016, approximately 400,000 graduates across the U.S. wore gowns made from recycled PET bottles. How many used plastic bottles did that take, you ask? About 10.8 million.
The first clothing made from recycled PET bottles hit the shelves in 1993. Patagonia invested in significant research and development to make this happen.
Since then, the brand has pushed other clothing manufacturers to jump on board and use recycled PET in their clothing. Repreve, owned by Unifi, was launched specifically to recycle PET into fabric. Repreve now supplies Patagonia and a number of other companies with recycled PET fabric to be used in their clothing.
While the exact process is rather complex, the infographic below gives a fantastic outline of each step in the recycling and manufacturing process. Before we get to that, however, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of using recycled PET in clothing.
Pros of Recycled PET Clothing
Pro #1: Using recycled PET reduces our dependence on petroleum.
Traditional polyester fibers are made from raw petroleum. By using recycled PET bottles, manufacturers become less dependent on petroleum to make their clothing.
Pro #2: Clothing made from PET can be recycled again and again.
No matter what it’s made of, all clothing eventually wears out and needs to be recycled. Clothing made from recycled PET and polyester can be recycled and turned back into fibers to be used in making more clothing.
It’s a rather impressive cycle of turning old clothing back into new clothing again and again. Patagonia will actually collect your old Patagonia clothing and resell it if it’s still in good shape (if not, they recycle it). You can use the Earth911 recycling search to find a local clothing donation/recycling location in your area.
Cons of Recycled PET Clothing
Con #1: Clothing made from plastic releases microfibers.
The biggest issue with recycled PET clothing is the microfibers they release. As the fabric breaks down each time you wash it, tiny plastic fibers are flushed down the drain and enter our sewers. These fibers eventually make their way into our oceans.
One researcher found that 85 percent of the manmade material on the shoreline was microfibers. Because of their microscopic size, these microplastics are extremely difficult to clean up. They have been found inside marine life and floating in every ocean around the world.
Con #2: Recycled PET is still plastic.
We’ll never completely get rid of plastic, but we could definitely do more to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives.
While recycling plastic bottles into clothing is certainly better than those same bottles ending up in a landfill, it isn’t doing anything to decrease our dependence on plastic. There are many other natural fibers, such as organic cotton and hemp, that can be used as clothing instead of plastic. When possible, we should purchase clothing made from these more-sustainable materials.
How It All Works
Overall, though, recycling old plastic bottles into clothing is a great way to upcycle. To see the exact process plastic bottles go through to become clothing, check out this Fix.com infographic:
Source: Fix.com Blog
Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock
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