RPET As a More Environmentally Friendly Textile Choice
RPET stands for recycled polythene terephthalate (polythene terephthalate), or simply recycled plastic. In the apparel industry, rPET can be converted into recycled polyester and is being quickly embraced by many top fashion brands for wearable garments such as clothes and bags, as well as homewares and shoes, using post-consumer plastic bottles.
So, how can recycled plastic bottles be used to make clothing, and why should you bother? What are the advantages of purchasing rPET-based products? Is this fabric more environmentally friendly than fabric made from virgin materials? What does are its implications for the environment, and why did we want to use recycled material fabric in our uniquely Australian picnic mats?
What exactly is polyester?
Polyester is a man-made fibre, a synthetic material created by combining petroleum, air, and water in a chemical reaction. It’s one of the most popular and widely used fibres in the world, accounting for more than 65 percent of all clothing and apparel fibres. It’s recognised for its resilience, versatility, abrasion resistance, and ease of care. Polyester’s use isn’t diminishing, according to Textile Exchange, a global charity that fosters leaders in the chosen fibre and materials industry. According to the study’s Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2019, polyester is the most commonly used fibre on the planet, accounting for 52 percent of global fibre output in 2018.
What distinguishes recycled polyester from virgin polyester?
While polyester does not appear to many as an environmentally friendly material at first glance, it is becoming an increasingly important component in our search for a more sustainable textile alternative. Unlike virgin polyester, recycled polyester uses existing PET as a raw material.
Plastic waste is collected in the form of used plastic bottles and fishing nets, which are then transported to a manufacturing plant where it is melted down into pellets and re-spun into recycled polyester fibre.
Recycled polyester has the same properties as virgin polyester in terms of consistency, longevity, pliancy, easy drying, and colour fastness. RPET is just as good as virgin polyester, but it needs less energy to produce, making it much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than regular polyester because:
Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels:
We are conserving natural resources by using recycled polyester in our mats. We can save just over one litre of petroleum (or crude oil) per kilo of recycled content instead of adding fresh petroleum (or crude oil) into the atmosphere. As a result, by reducing demand, we prevent the extraction of petroleum from the earth.
Reduction of Pollution in landfills and in our oceans
Every year, 200 million tonnes of plastic are made, with an estimated 10% of that finding its way directly into our oceans, where it wreaks havoc on the habitats of our sea life. PET bottles are
diverted from landfill by using post-consumer recycled polyester, reducing the amount of plastic waste in the atmosphere, our soil, our air, and our water.
In addition, one kilo of accumulated ocean plastic waste can be turned into one kilo of recycled material. We reduce the amount of plastic released into the air we breathe during the incineration process by recycling post-consumer and industrial plastics into rPET.
Decreasing our Carbon footprint
Did you know that rPET will help reduce energy consumption? It uses 35-50 percent less energy and produces 70-79 percent less CO2 emissions than virgin polyester during its entire manufacturing process. Since CO2 is one of the most significant contributors to climate change, we believe it is important to reduce pollution as much as possible. Since PET is such a widely used commodity, encouraging companies to use it in its recycled form while developing new goods would help us make meaningful and beneficial environmental changes in the future.
So, when it comes to recycled polyester vs. natural fibres, which is more ethical?
Since polyester is a synthetic material rather than a natural fibre, it is a poor option for garments that need breathability. However, it also has environmental benefits and is a better choice for a wider variety of goods than cotton.
Cotton (not organic cotton) and the cotton industry, sadly, have a significant environmental effect as a result of their manufacturing process, which includes the use of chemicals, pesticides, and fertilisers to produce a crop. Recycled polyester, unlike cotton, does not require agricultural land and does not require gallons of water to manufacture. Cotton also has a short lifespan, can’t be used in as many applications as polyester, and takes a long time to decompose.
What about microfabrics or microplastics, though?
The minute particles that can be produced when a textile is washed in a washing machine are known as microfabrics or microfibres. Microfibres are released by all fabrics, particularly when washed vigorously. Synthetic fabrics (such as nylon, polyester, acrylic, rayon, viscose, lycra, fleece, and similar blends) release plastic microfibres, also known as microplastics, when washed in a washing machine. Unfortunately, non-biodegradable fibres will end up in our food supply, are ingested by sea life, and then end up in our drinking water and ultimately in our bodies.
We created our waterproof picnic mats without the need for machine washing because microfibre shedding is closely linked to textiles being cleaned via washing machines. Our mats are made of a water-resistant, environmentally friendly material that also repels liquid stains. Our mats are even more resistant to weathering and are much sturdier for outdoor use since they are made of rPET.
To keep your mat looking fresh and clean, simply use a damp cloth to wipe them down with a mild detergent or soap and allow them to air dry.
Solseekers Australia wants to help our environment.
rPET recycling isn’t a perfect solution, and it doesn’t address the fact that plastic items are here to stay for a long time until newer safer, affordable fabrics are created. However, reducing the
production of virgin polyester and seeking new uses for post-consumer recycled plastics is undoubtedly a positive move for the environment and humanity’s we