rPET Fabric: What You Need to Know
RPET fabric or Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate is a new reusable and sustainable material that is on the rise. Before recycling, PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is also commonly known as Polyester and can contain either pre or post-consumer waste.
Since rPET fabric has grown in popularity, companies are creating special edition products made from the material. Trendy retailers like Converse, GirlfriendCollective, and Rothys all have products made from the recycled material. To first create products made from rPET fabric, these companies must work with outside sources to obtain plastic bottles. The bottles are then mechanically broken down into tiny flakes and melted to be spun into yarn. Finally, the yarn is woven into recycled polyester fabric to create trendy sneakers by Converse, comfortable leggings by Girlfriend Collective, and sustainable shoes by Rothys for customers of all ages.
Using a sustainable rPET fabric is a great idea if it is manufactured correctly. With a rising concern for the amount of plastic in our oceans and landfills, cleanup companies have been founded to help reduce our carbon footprint. Cleanup organizations like Clean Ocean Action and 4Ocean, more plastic materials can be retrieved to be manufactured into the recycled material.The energy used to create rPET fabric is about 33-53% less than what it is to produce virgin polyester. Due of this fabric, plastic materials, especially water bottles are saved from our oceans and landfills.
Even With rPET Fabric, There are Pros and Cons:
RPET is incredibly easy to recycle. PET bottles are also easy to distinguish by their “#1” recycling label and is accepted by most recycling plans. Reusing plastic not only provides a better option than landfills, but it helps give it a second life. Recycling the plastic into these materials also has the ability to decrease our need for using new resources. Over half of first time PET production is used to create polyester fabrics. By using recycled PET, we are decreasing the need to create new polyester textiles.
Considering rPET provides a market for recycled plastics, recycling programs and recycled goods are seen as valuable pieces to consumers. According to EarthHero, “one year’s worth of recycling common plastics can create the equivalent energy savings of taking 360,000 cars off the road in the US.”
We know that rPET is easily recyclable, however, it is still plastic. Even though plastic can decompose or break down, microfibers or microplastics can still remain. In its fabric form when washed, rPET can contain tiny plastic fibers that break off, making their way back to landfills or oceans harming its inhabitants. Needless to say, plastic is here to stay for quite some time. Although, renewing the life of already-made plastic products is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, even the recycling process may have negative environmental effects. It does take less energy to produce products from recycled plastics, but carbon emissions are still released in the process.
Here's Why Recycling Still Matters:
Statistics shown by Greener Fabrics: a leading provider of rPET based fabrics indicate (when compared to virgin polyester):
- 85% less energy is required
- 65% fewer emissions: 50-65% less Carbon and Sulphur Dioxide released
- 90% less water required
Plastic bottles take about 700 years to decompose, so getting them out of landfills and waterways is extremely important. When degraded, the bottles are not completely broken down, and become tiny microplastic pieces. Even if we can’t see them, they still harm the ecosystem.
Recycled PET is not yet a perfect solution, but it does still find new life for plastics. Creating a new life for plastic water bottles is a great start. On top of shoes and clothing made from rPET fabric, reusable shopping bags can also be created from this material; using shopping bags made from recycled PET also cuts down on single-use plastic bags. Considering its pros and cons, rPET is the more sustainable option.