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Everything you need to know about Recycled Polyester

Sourcing sustainable materials without compromising on quality is key for us at Oliver Co., and recycled polyester is one of the best ways to give already-sourced materials a new lease of life, reducing the strain on our planet’s resources. Who would have thought that plastic bottles could provide the perfect linings for our vegan wallets?

But what exactly is recycled polyester and how beneficial is it for the environment? Let us explain.

Is recycled polyester sustainable?

Firstly, it’s important to clarify that polyester is a man-made synthetic material, composed of a common type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate, or more simply ‘PET’. Strong yet lightweight, we encounter it numerous times throughout an average day, as bottled soft drinks to hand soap dispensers to food packaging and so on.

Melting PET and spinning it into yarn transforms this clear, smooth and shiny plastic into a soft, flexible and water-repellent fibre, most commonly associated with sportswear. To create new or virgin polyester from scratch requires a reaction between air, water and petroleum, a non-renewable source. Petroleum is a fossil fuel found deep between the layers of the Earth’s crust and is sadly estimated to run out within this century.

Using 100% recycled polyester for our Compact Wallet and Premium Compact Wallet reduces CO2 emissions by up to 29%, energy consumption by 44% and water consumption by 16%. compared to virgin polyester. Our durable polyester yarn is recycled from plastic bottles, saving them from going to landfills.

And we don’t stop there—our recycled polyester is GRS (Global Recycling Standard) certified. The Global Recycled Standard verifies that any product contains at least 20% recycled material. Each stage of production is required to be certified, addressing traceability, environmental principles, social requirements, chemical content and labelling.

Our recycled polyester offers a sustainable and certified alternative to virgin polyester, conserving energy and water while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Look for similar certifications when purchasing from other brands for peace of mind.

How is polyester recycled?

Recycled polyester or ‘rPET’ is created either mechanically or chemically by collecting PET, usually in the form of used plastic bottles, and sorting, washing and breaking the material down to be spun into yarn that can be adapted to include performance technologies like moisture-wicking and temperature regulation.

In mechanical recycling, the plastic bottles are cleaned, chopped into flakes and sorted by colour, then melted down into chips. These then go through an extrusion and texturing process to transform them into fibres.

Chemical recycling does what it says on the tin—using a series of chemicals, the PET is cleaned and broken before yarn is spun from the resulting material. This method requires the same fibre for it to work smoothly.

Is chemical or mechanical recycling better for polyester?

Currently, mechanical recycling is the most common form of polyester recycling as it’s a simpler process and more easily sourced. Mechanical recycling can sometimes produce shorter fibre lengths which can reduce the strength of the material, limiting its circularity, but this can be remedied by blending in other fibres.

The chemical recycling process uses more chemicals and energy than mechanical recycling, posing a question as to whether this toll on the environment is acceptable. On the flip side, it can create a polyester material that is supposedly of equal quality to virgin polyester and has the potential to close the loop on polyester recycling. Although not available on a wide scale yet, there are some suppliers offering this method at a higher cost to mechanical recycling, and we’ll likely see this method develop with less environmental impact in the near future.

Is recycled polyester safe?

When we’re thinking about polyester as a form of plastic, we might question whether it’s safe to come into contact with our largest organ, our skin.

The latest scientific research found that there was no evidence to suggest that recycled polyester is toxic or causes harm to human health.

Our recycled polyester carries an OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certification, a highly-regarded international eco-label. OEKO-TEX® offers “Confidence in Textiles,” qualifying that the yarn we use is tested to be free of harmful levels of more than 100 restricted chemicals. The OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 is the world’s leading label for textiles screened for harmful substances, so you can rest assured that the recycled polyester we use at Oliver Co. is completely safe.

Not all companies adhere to the same standards when it comes to recycled polyester, so check for certifications and the chemicals used in performance finishes.

Top tip: When it comes to the safety of the environment, both virgin polyester and recycled polyester can release microplastics during washing so if you have clothes made of these fabrics, try to minimise washing and use a filter washing bag like this one from Guppyfriend to prevent microplastic pollution.

How much does recycled polyester cost?

Recycled polyester costs more than virgin polyester due to a higher production volume of virgin polyester. However, as international demand continues to grow because of eco-conscious customers like you, it’s believed that prices will level out, hopefully encouraging more companies to make the right choice and take the sustainable option like we do here at Oliver Co.

 

Find out more about our commitment to sustainability and the other materials we use here.

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