A Senate committee is asking the Pentagon to consider whether recycled materials could be acceptable fabrics for the military and what materials could be feasible, according to an article published last week by the Marine Corps Times.
In its report on the 2012 defense authorization bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked the Defense Department to explore the use of recycled materials in military uniforms, including the use of fabrics made from plastic bottles.
The Defense Department was asked to report their conclusions in time to be considered as part of the 2013 defense budget.
The request is likely in response to a 2009 presidential executive order that encourages conservation by, among other things, setting a goal that 95 percent of new government contracts other than weapons include eco-friendly products and services.
For the military, this means seeking out nontoxic or less toxic alternatives for current products, using water-saving techniques and purchasing products made from recycled content.
Americans toss more than enough plastic to be put to use in everyday products. More than 2.4 billion pounds of plastic bottles were recycled in 2008.
And Cintas – an Ohio-based uniform manufacturer – has been turning some of these recycled finds into a variety of interesting fabrics.
In addition to providing plastic-based uniforms for a number of companies and small businesses, Cintas claims to have created a machine-washable tuxedo made from recycled bottles.
The process of creating the fabrics is fairly simple – the plastics are shredded, woven into fabric and turned into polyester.
Wearing plastic bottle clothing may sound uncomfortable, but the fabric actually has the same look, feel and durability of standard polyester blends.
Many pieces of military garb are already made from a polyester blend, and manufacturers like Cintas claim this blend can be seamlessly replicated by subbing out traditional polyester with fabrics made from plastic bottles.
Over the past few years, many of these polyester fabrics have begun to be phased out of military uniforms in favor of more flame-resistant alternatives.
The Defense Department will likely consider how recycled materials could also be used to meet the military’s need for flame retardant fabrics.