how are recycled polyester and virgin polyester different (2)

How Are Recycled Polyester and Virgin Polyester Different?

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    Recycled polyester and virgin polyester are two types of the same fabric that have different properties. There are many misconceptions about polyester clothing. Some people think that if it is made from recycled polyester, then the fabric will be of inferior quality and not as durable as virgin polyester. However, this is not true! Recycled polyester can have the same strength and durability as virgin polyesters because they both come from similar raw materials like plastic bottles. The difference between these two fabrics lies mainly in how they are processed once they become part of a garment.

    Polyester is one of the most commonly used materials in the textile industry. Every year, more than 22.67 billion tonnes of polyester clothing is produced worldwide. It’s especially popular in sportswear, due to its exceptional elasticity and “sweat-proofness”. However, polyester is also one of the most unsustainable and contaminating materials on the planet. In this blog post, we explore how recycled polyester compares to virgin polyester in terms of technical quality and sustainability. We also look at why it’s our number one choice for manufacturing our running clothes and how it can help us create a positive impact.

    FAQs About Recycled Polyester

    Polyester is a manmade fiber that is made from oil and synthesized from petrochemical products by a process called polymerization. As a raw material, it is a clear, strong and flexible plastic that is used for PET – a short term for polyester – bottles and a lot of other purposes. It is 100 percent recyclable and it can be done by either mechanical or chemical processes. The recycled polyester used for textiles is most commonly from PET bottles.

    Not necessarily. If you use the term “more sustainable” you should define what the product is compared to. Check if it is “100 percent recycled” – a lot of the time it is a blend of virgin and recycled polyester that is used. And most importantly: the claim has to be certified by a third party.

    There are a lot of these labels and certificates on the market. Which ones do you recommend that the end consumer look for? The Recycled Claim Standard and The Global Recycled Standard both verify the recycled input material, and track it all the way to the final product. The latter also ensures responsible social, environmental practices and chemical use through production.

    Yes, that is true. One reason is that virgin polyester is produced in much higher volumes. International demand is growing and that will help with making recycled polyester price competitive. Multinational sporting goods companies, such as Nike, were early in their use of recycled polyester. In recent years, even the giants in the fashion industry have begun to use it more and more. In the long term, I believe that prices will level out, especially if companies and industries work together and provide clear signals to the suppliers, so that they dare to invest.

    Yes absolutely. Several companies have the technology needed to recycle polyester clothing. The problem is rather the collection, distribution and costs. The infrastructure needs to be built in order for textiles to be recycled on a larger scale. Here too, companies and trade associations in sports, fashion and outdoor could collaborate more to quicken the pace.

    In some cases, it is technically possible, for example blends with polyester and cotton. But it is still at the pilot level. The challenge is to find processes that can be scaled up properly and we are not there yet.

    What Is Polyester?how are recycled polyester and virgin polyester different (3)

    Polyester - the most common form of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - is a man-made, synthetic fibre derived from a chemical reaction between petroleum, air and water. It was patented in the 1940s. Since then, the use of polyester in the production of products such as industrial fabrics, furnishing and clothing has increased exponentially. 

    The sports textile industry, for example, relies heavily on the use of polyester due to its advantageous qualities. Polyester fabrics are an athlete’s best ally because they are highly elastic, abrasion-resistant, easy to care for, and, above all, absorb less moisture and expel sweat more easily than other types of fabrics. 

    However, no matter how well-suited polyester may be to activewear, it’s a synthetic fibre that comes from a non-renewable source (petroleum). When you consider that the oil industry is on of the world’s biggest polluters and contributors to climate change, it starts to look bad. What’s more, polyester is not biodegradable: it could take up to 200 years for it to fully decompose, polluting the planet and its life-giving oceans.

    Considering all these factors, it’s easy to see that the production of virgin polyester is extremely unsustainable. So what’s the next best thing for athletes who need high-performance sportswear?

    What’s The Best Alternative To Virgin Polyester?

    When we started to conceive The Running Republic, it was clear that although polyester and polyamide are the best fibres in sports apparel, we would not be using them in their virgin state. We are acutely aware of the current global emergency regarding plastic pollution, and we did not want to introduce new contaminating materials into the environment. 

    After months of investigation and dozens of meetings with fabric suppliers, we came to the conclusion that the best alternative to virgin polyester currently available on the market is recycled polyester (also called rPET). 

    Our research showed that recycled polyester has many benefits both in terms of technical attributes and sustainability. To understand these benefits, let us explain what recycled polyester is and how it’s produced. 

    How Is Recycled Polyester Made?

    Recycled plastic is made by collecting plastic waste such as plastic bottles or fishnets, shipping it to processing facilities, melting it down into pellets and then spinning those pellets into new polyester fibre. 

    Recycled polyester has the same consistency, elasticity, resistance to abrasion, moisture-wicking and colour-fastness as virgin polyester. However, due to its production process, it's much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than virgin polyester - which is why we chose to use it in the making of our sports clothing (along with recycled polyamide).

    By using recycled polyester, we’re saving natural resources. Instead of introducing new oil into the environment, we’re able to save just over one litre of oil per kilo of recycled material. Using post-consumer recycled polyester also allows us to decrease the amount of plastic waste in the environment. We can turn one kilo of collected waste - ocean plastic - into one kilo of recycled material. 

    Last but not least, using recycled polyester saves energy throughout all the production processes by 50% compared to virgin polyester, and generates 70% less CO2 emissions. With CO2 being one of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect and climate change, we think it’s fundamentally important to reduce emissions as much as we can.

    polyester

    The Impact Of Using Recycled Polyester

    So let’s look at the bigger picture. How can the practice of using recycled polyester instead of virgin polyester make the world a better place? The production process of recycled polyester does not rely on oil as a raw material. If the practice of recycling polyester was widely adopted, we would be able to ultimately decrease our reliance on petroleum and thus discourage its extraction from the Earth. 

    Using recycled polyester can also contribute to reducing ocean plastic and preventing plastic from ending up in landfills. What’s more, it can decrease the amount of plastic that’s being incinerated and releasing toxic gases into the air.

    Why Buy Recycled?

    To be honest, it's the best solution for a bad situation. Wearing synthetics will always be bad for the environment. They are made of plastic, require a huge amount of oil and non-renewable resources, and are the biggest contributor to microfibers in our oceans. Synthetics currently make up 60% of the textiles produced. Because of the quick drying, recovery and wrinkle free properties they are an ideal fabric for swimwear and activewear. These benefits make it difficult to switch entirely away from synthetics. In addition, while natural fibers don't use non-renewable resources, switching to 100% natural fibers would put a huge strain on our land and water use. It's a tricky balance.

    So when you need to wear synthetics, a good compromise is to use fabrics made with recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). While it's still made of plastic and microfibers will still shed with each wash, it does allow us to avoid creating virgin plastics and helps keep existing plastic bottles from ending up in our oceans.

    Converting PET into recycled polyester uses less water and energy than it would to produce virgin polyester. Most studies show that between 33-53% less energy is used to create recycled polyester vs virgin. In addition, less CO2 emissions are produced and we do not need to use non-renewable resources (petroleum).

    Is Recycled Polyester Healthy?

    When it comes to clothing - products that touch our skin, our biggest organ - it’s inevitable to talk about the impact of the materials used in the making of garments on our health. Is recycled polyester safe, or is it toxic?

    According to the latest research, there is no evidence to suggest that clothing made from recycled polyester negatively impacts our health. Extensive research has been done to find out whether we need to worry about toxic chemicals leaching into our skin from materials made from recycled PET bottles. Scientists came to the conclusion that these recycled materials pose no health concern for humans whatsoever. You can rest assured, wearing recycled polyester will not adversely affect your health - but it will positively impact the health of our planet. 

    Sustainability Serving Performance

    how are recycled polyester and virgin polyester different (1)

    As you were reading this post, you may have wondered: is recycled polyester the only option when developing sustainable sportswear? What about natural fibres? Of the materials currently available on the market, natural fibres such as Merino wool or Tencel have similar properties to those of polyester. However, as of today, there is no natural fibre or treated natural fibre that has the moisture control of polyester (or polyamide) and can, therefore, be applied to high-performance sports textiles.

    Polyester is a man-made fiber manufactured using petrochemical products like ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate. But unlike polyester, recycled polyester is made using products made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate)) like plastic bottles, polyester fabrics, etc. During the recycling process of polyester, the fibers re-constitutes at the molecular level because of which there is not much difference between the properties of virgin polyester and the recycled polyester. Most of the mechanical properties of recycled polyester like durability, tensile strength and performance along with its advantages are all similar to that of virgin polyester.

    In addition to that, the process of recycling polyester consumes fewer resources than that of manufacturing virgin polyester. Since no new petroleum and other raw material are required to create the recycled fiber, hence not only the demand for resources is reduced but this also lowers the overall carbon footprint of the final end product. Also instead of going into landfills, the PET bottles are reused reducing the waste and contamination from the environment. It is estimated that recycling polyester fiber lowers around 75 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions when compared to the manufacturing of virgin polyester. This implies that recycled polyester has a lower environmental impact than virgin polyester.

    Many pieces of research have proved that the textiles or garments which are made from recycled polyester can be recycled again-and-again without affecting the qualities and properties of the fiber. If this is implemented at the industry level, then the polyester could be recycled and reused for a much longer time creating a closed-loop system. And as we know the closed-loop system is one of the key practices of adopting a sustainable manufacturing system.

    Recycled polyester manufacturing brand REPREVE® has also mentioned that the energy consumption is reduced by 45 percent, water consumption is reduced by 20 percent and greenhouse gas emission is reduced by more than 30 percent when compared to the manufacturing process of virgin polyester.

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      Recycled polyester and virgin polyester are two types of the same fabric that have different properties. There are many misconceptions about polyester clothing. Some people think that if it is made from recycled polyester, then the fabric will be of inferior quality and not as durable as virgin polyester. However, this is not true! Recycled polyester can have the same strength and durability as virgin polyesters because they both come from similar raw materials like plastic bottles. The difference between these two fabrics lies mainly in how they are processed once they become part of a garment.

      Polyester is one of the most commonly used materials in the textile industry. Every year, more than 22.67 billion tonnes of polyester clothing is produced worldwide. It’s especially popular in sportswear, due to its exceptional elasticity and “sweat-proofness”. However, polyester is also one of the most unsustainable and contaminating materials on the planet. In this blog post, we explore how recycled polyester compares to virgin polyester in terms of technical quality and sustainability. We also look at why it’s our number one choice for manufacturing our running clothes and how it can help us create a positive impact.

      FAQs

      Polyester is a manmade fiber that is made from oil and synthesized from petrochemical products by a process called polymerization. As a raw material, it is a clear, strong and flexible plastic that is used for PET – a short term for polyester – bottles and a lot of other purposes. It is 100 percent recyclable and it can be done by either mechanical or chemical processes. The recycled polyester used for textiles is most commonly from PET bottles.

      Not necessarily. If you use the term “more sustainable” you should define what the product is compared to. Check if it is “100 percent recycled” – a lot of the time it is a blend of virgin and recycled polyester that is used. And most importantly: the claim has to be certified by a third party.

      There are a lot of these labels and certificates on the market. Which ones do you recommend that the end consumer look for? The Recycled Claim Standard and The Global Recycled Standard both verify the recycled input material, and track it all the way to the final product. The latter also ensures responsible social, environmental practices and chemical use through production.

      Yes, that is true. One reason is that virgin polyester is produced in much higher volumes. International demand is growing and that will help with making recycled polyester price competitive. Multinational sporting goods companies, such as Nike, were early in their use of recycled polyester. In recent years, even the giants in the fashion industry have begun to use it more and more. In the long term, I believe that prices will level out, especially if companies and industries work together and provide clear signals to the suppliers, so that they dare to invest.

      Yes absolutely. Several companies have the technology needed to recycle polyester clothing. The problem is rather the collection, distribution and costs. The infrastructure needs to be built in order for textiles to be recycled on a larger scale. Here too, companies and trade associations in sports, fashion and outdoor could collaborate more to quicken the pace.

      In some cases, it is technically possible, for example blends with polyester and cotton. But it is still at the pilot level. The challenge is to find processes that can be scaled up properly and we are not there yet.

      What Is Polyester?how are recycled polyester and virgin polyester different (3)

      Polyester - the most common form of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - is a man-made, synthetic fibre derived from a chemical reaction between petroleum, air and water. It was patented in the 1940s. Since then, the use of polyester in the production of products such as industrial fabrics, furnishing and clothing has increased exponentially. 

      The sports textile industry, for example, relies heavily on the use of polyester due to its advantageous qualities. Polyester fabrics are an athlete’s best ally because they are highly elastic, abrasion-resistant, easy to care for, and, above all, absorb less moisture and expel sweat more easily than other types of fabrics. 

      However, no matter how well-suited polyester may be to activewear, it’s a synthetic fibre that comes from a non-renewable source (petroleum). When you consider that the oil industry is on of the world’s biggest polluters and contributors to climate change, it starts to look bad. What’s more, polyester is not biodegradable: it could take up to 200 years for it to fully decompose, polluting the planet and its life-giving oceans.

      Considering all these factors, it’s easy to see that the production of virgin polyester is extremely unsustainable. So what’s the next best thing for athletes who need high-performance sportswear?

      What’s The Best Alternative To Virgin Polyester?

      When we started to conceive The Running Republic, it was clear that although polyester and polyamide are the best fibres in sports apparel, we would not be using them in their virgin state. We are acutely aware of the current global emergency regarding plastic pollution, and we did not want to introduce new contaminating materials into the environment. 

      After months of investigation and dozens of meetings with fabric suppliers, we came to the conclusion that the best alternative to virgin polyester currently available on the market is recycled polyester (also called rPET). 

      Our research showed that recycled polyester has many benefits both in terms of technical attributes and sustainability. To understand these benefits, let us explain what recycled polyester is and how it’s produced. 

      How Is Recycled Polyester Made?

      Recycled plastic is made by collecting plastic waste such as plastic bottles or fishnets, shipping it to processing facilities, melting it down into pellets and then spinning those pellets into new polyester fibre. 

      Recycled polyester has the same consistency, elasticity, resistance to abrasion, moisture-wicking and colour-fastness as virgin polyester. However, due to its production process, it's much more sustainable and environmentally friendly than virgin polyester - which is why we chose to use it in the making of our sports clothing (along with recycled polyamide).

      By using recycled polyester, we’re saving natural resources. Instead of introducing new oil into the environment, we’re able to save just over one litre of oil per kilo of recycled material. Using post-consumer recycled polyester also allows us to decrease the amount of plastic waste in the environment. We can turn one kilo of collected waste - ocean plastic - into one kilo of recycled material. 

      Last but not least, using recycled polyester saves energy throughout all the production processes by 50% compared to virgin polyester, and generates 70% less CO2 emissions. With CO2 being one of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse effect and climate change, we think it’s fundamentally important to reduce emissions as much as we can.

      polyester

      The Impact Of Using Recycled Polyester

      So let’s look at the bigger picture. How can the practice of using recycled polyester instead of virgin polyester make the world a better place? The production process of recycled polyester does not rely on oil as a raw material. If the practice of recycling polyester was widely adopted, we would be able to ultimately decrease our reliance on petroleum and thus discourage its extraction from the Earth. 

      Using recycled polyester can also contribute to reducing ocean plastic and preventing plastic from ending up in landfills. What’s more, it can decrease the amount of plastic that’s being incinerated and releasing toxic gases into the air.

      Why Buy Recycled?

      To be honest, it's the best solution for a bad situation. Wearing synthetics will always be bad for the environment. They are made of plastic, require a huge amount of oil and non-renewable resources, and are the biggest contributor to microfibers in our oceans. Synthetics currently make up 60% of the textiles produced. Because of the quick drying, recovery and wrinkle free properties they are an ideal fabric for swimwear and activewear. These benefits make it difficult to switch entirely away from synthetics. In addition, while natural fibers don't use non-renewable resources, switching to 100% natural fibers would put a huge strain on our land and water use. It's a tricky balance.

      So when you need to wear synthetics, a good compromise is to use fabrics made with recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). While it's still made of plastic and microfibers will still shed with each wash, it does allow us to avoid creating virgin plastics and helps keep existing plastic bottles from ending up in our oceans.

      Converting PET into recycled polyester uses less water and energy than it would to produce virgin polyester. Most studies show that between 33-53% less energy is used to create recycled polyester vs virgin. In addition, less CO2 emissions are produced and we do not need to use non-renewable resources (petroleum).

      Is Recycled Polyester Healthy?

      When it comes to clothing - products that touch our skin, our biggest organ - it’s inevitable to talk about the impact of the materials used in the making of garments on our health. Is recycled polyester safe, or is it toxic?

      According to the latest research, there is no evidence to suggest that clothing made from recycled polyester negatively impacts our health. Extensive research has been done to find out whether we need to worry about toxic chemicals leaching into our skin from materials made from recycled PET bottles. Scientists came to the conclusion that these recycled materials pose no health concern for humans whatsoever. You can rest assured, wearing recycled polyester will not adversely affect your health - but it will positively impact the health of our planet. 

      Sustainability Serving Performance

      how are recycled polyester and virgin polyester different (1)

      As you were reading this post, you may have wondered: is recycled polyester the only option when developing sustainable sportswear? What about natural fibres? Of the materials currently available on the market, natural fibres such as Merino wool or Tencel have similar properties to those of polyester. However, as of today, there is no natural fibre or treated natural fibre that has the moisture control of polyester (or polyamide) and can, therefore, be applied to high-performance sports textiles.

      Polyester is a man-made fiber manufactured using petrochemical products like ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate. But unlike polyester, recycled polyester is made using products made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate)) like plastic bottles, polyester fabrics, etc. During the recycling process of polyester, the fibers re-constitutes at the molecular level because of which there is not much difference between the properties of virgin polyester and the recycled polyester. Most of the mechanical properties of recycled polyester like durability, tensile strength and performance along with its advantages are all similar to that of virgin polyester.

      In addition to that, the process of recycling polyester consumes fewer resources than that of manufacturing virgin polyester. Since no new petroleum and other raw material are required to create the recycled fiber, hence not only the demand for resources is reduced but this also lowers the overall carbon footprint of the final end product. Also instead of going into landfills, the PET bottles are reused reducing the waste and contamination from the environment. It is estimated that recycling polyester fiber lowers around 75 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions when compared to the manufacturing of virgin polyester. This implies that recycled polyester has a lower environmental impact than virgin polyester.

      Many pieces of research have proved that the textiles or garments which are made from recycled polyester can be recycled again-and-again without affecting the qualities and properties of the fiber. If this is implemented at the industry level, then the polyester could be recycled and reused for a much longer time creating a closed-loop system. And as we know the closed-loop system is one of the key practices of adopting a sustainable manufacturing system.

      Recycled polyester manufacturing brand REPREVE® has also mentioned that the energy consumption is reduced by 45 percent, water consumption is reduced by 20 percent and greenhouse gas emission is reduced by more than 30 percent when compared to the manufacturing process of virgin polyester.

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