Quantcast Fabric Focus: What Is Recycled Polyester? - United By Blue

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Fabric Focus:

What Is Recycled Polyester?

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Is there a more literal case of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure than that of recycled polyester? We think not. This durable, versatile fabric gets its name from the process of recycling used plastic into an entirely new, wearable material. You’ve probably seen the words “recycled polyester” printed on the labels of everything from pants to shirts to bags. Now, the waste-diverting fabric is popping up pretty much everywhere. So how exactly do all those rigid bottles in your recycling bin transform into a flexible, feel-good fabric? Read on as we walk through all the in’s and out’s of recycled polyester.

united by blue bluff backpack

What Is Recycled Polyester?

Like traditional polyester, recycled polyester is a man-made fabric produced from synthetic fibers. However, instead of utilizing new materials to craft the fabric (i.e. petroleum), recycled polyester makes use of existing plastic. In many cases, those existing plastics are your old water bottles, which are then processed and magically transformed into that awesome, rip-resistant Bluff Utility Backpack sitting next to your desk.

How Is It Made?

OK, so it's not pure magic. Recycled polyester is made by breaking down used plastic into small, thin chips, which are processed and eventually turned into yarn. Processes vary by specific fabrication, so let’s focus on the recycled polyester used in our Ridgeline Bag collection, Repreve. Manufacturing this ultra-durable fiber begins with truckloads of plastic bottles - but just the clear ones, which provide a neutral base for applying dyes. The bottles are stripped of their labels and shredded up into tiny pieces that look like plastic confetti. The festive vibe is appropriate: Recycling single-use plastics dramatically decreases greenhouse gas emissions compared to producing virgin polyester. Water usage is also significantly decreased during production. These plastic pieces are then converted into tiny pellets, melted, and spun into yarn.

recycled polyester
Courtesy of Repreve

Environmental Benefits

By limiting the use of virgin materials, recycled polyester dramatically lowers its environmental impact versus traditional polyester. Recycled polyester:

  • Reduces reliance on virgin petroleum as a raw material
  • Diverts used plastic from landfills
  • Prevents used plastic from ending up in our oceans and harming marine life (more on that here)
  • Decreases greenhouse gas emissions from creating and processing virgin polyester
  • Can be continuously recycled again and again without quality degradation

Why Choose Recycled Polyester?

This soft yet tough fabric is a more sustainable option than its conventional counterpart, but maintains all the properties that made polyester so popular since its inception in the ‘40s. From saving water bottles from a life in a landfill to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a go-to for goods that require high performance durability. Take a look at the finished product with some of our favorite recycled polyester picks below.

Now you’re a recycled polyester expert! Check out our posts on hemp and yak and get to know some of the other sustainable fabrics love to use.

Hemp Yak

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