Recycled polyester, often called rPET, is often made from recycled plastic bottles. It is, therefore, a great way to divert plastic from our landfills.
Also, virgin polyester, the most common fiber used to make clothes nowadays, is a synthetic fiber derived from petroleum. Using recycled polyester instead of virgin avoids additional oil extraction and needs approximately 60% less energy to be produced. It is estimated that recycled polyester requires between 45% and 70% fewer CO2 emissions than virgin polyester.
Recycled polyester has some clear environmental benefits compared to virgin one; however, it is still non-biodegradable and still releases plastic microfibers.
How is recycled polyester made?
There are two ways to recycle polyester: For mechanical recycling, plastic is melted to make new yarn. This process can only be done a few times before the fiber loses its quality. Chemical recycling involves breaking down plastic molecules and reforming them into yarn. This process maintains the quality of the original fiber and allows the material to be recycled infinitely, but it is more expensive.
Is it safe to wear recycled plastic bottles?
Yes, it is safe to wear garments, including underwear, made from recycled plastic bottles. However, while rPET is safe to wear, the dyes and other finishing processes can still contain harmful substances. Hence, for consumer safety, it is important that the chemicals involved in the different stages of garment production are controlled and certified by SANE or other equivalent standards.
Recycled Polyester belongs to SANE Approved Material List. SANE recognizes the certifications GRS for recycled fibers. For recycled polyester not certified GRS, the material production will need to be certified SANE by a SANE-accredited certifier.
A product made of at least 90% recycled polyester (or blended with other SANE Approved Material) and produced in a facility holding a SANE Scope Certificate is eligible to be certified SANE.
Copy partner: Sustain Your Style; Picture: Polina Tankilevitch
Other sources: Pulse of Fashion 2018; NRDC: Polyester;