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?
What is Polyester?
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.
What are the benefits of Recycled Polyester?
Using 100% recycled polyester for with our Vegan wallets 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. *
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 as a more 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 (also called rPET) can be recycled either by mechanical or chemical means.
Chemical recycling is done by first collecting PET (mostly commonly in the form of plastic bottles or jars) sorting, washing and breaking down the material. Using a series of chemical cycles, the PET is broken down before being spun into yarn from the resulting material.
Mechanical recycling is carried out by first cleaning the bottles, sorting them by colour, and then chopping them into flakes. They are then melted down into chips and placed through an extrusion and texturing process to transform them into fibres.
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.
Is recycled polyester long lasting?
Within mechanical recycling, the durability of the yarns created depends on how much previous 'processing' they had encountered. Every time polyester is recycled the polymer strands become shorter and the resulting in a material that isn't as strong. This is why it can be difficult to recycle polyester clothing, as the yarns are already quite processed and short. However, with plastic bottles, the polymers are still quite long and thus are able to be recycled easily into durable fabric. To increase the durability of a fabric, often manufacturers will mix recycled polyester with virgin polyester.
Chemical recycling aims to rebuild strands and thus is better for durability. Chemical recycling reduces the polyester to its original monomer form so that it can eventually be processed (re-polymerised) and remade into durable long polymer strands. The downside is that this process is quite expensive and thus mechanical recycling is often used instead.
How many times can polyester be recycled?
In the case of mechanical recycling, plastic can often only be recycled twice before it starts losing its strength and can no longer perform as expected.
With chemical recycling, polyester has the potential of being recycled infinitely.
Where does Oliver Co recycled polyester come from?
Our recycled polyester fabrics are made in Italy & China.
China has set the standard for producing recycled linings that are both GRS (Global recycling standard) & OEKO-TEX certified. In Italy, the company Dinamica are developing ways of creating microfibre suede made from recycled polyester. Both materials can be seen in our range of vegan wallets.
Can Polyester be biodegradeable?
Biodegradability has been a long standing issue with petroleum based fabrics. Within the last few years however, there has been an exciting development of modified polyester yarns that through a mixture of organic compounds, breakdown when exposed to an environment that has moisture and microorganisms (such as a biologically active landfill). These added organic compounds, importantly, do not interfere with the properties of the final product.