Updated: Sep 5
Within sustainable fashion circles the huge damage caused by recycled polyester garments is well known. However, in the broader fashion world, and especially to consumers, the complications of recycled polyester are less obvious. Taking a waste product from one industry and using it to produce something of use for another industry seems like a fine idea on the surface. But look a little deeper and things become murkier.
PET (or Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles can be recycled endlessly into more PET plastic bottles. Yet there is no large-scale recycling currently available for polyester textiles. This means that by taking PET and turning it into polyester fabric (rPET), the cycle of recycling is interrupted, with these garments ending up in landfill, unable to bio-degrade and leeching microplastics into the environment. To add to this, the amount of rPET coming out of Asia is far greater than the amount being processed; leading many to believe that not only are rPET certificates being faked, but that new PET bottles are being produced solely for the purpose of recycling.
Fashion companies however fail to acknowledge these complications and still hail recycled polyester as the solution to sustainability - ignoring the numerous other issues that need to be tackled. You can read more on this issue in articles by Sustainable Fashion Forum and Marina Colerato. This meme from SFF perfectly illustrates the problem.
-Written by Emily Taylor