Why so unfavourable? Well, this recycled polyester is just not precisely what you may think. “One of the problems I always have with this is that they don’t actually specify that this comes from textiles,” says Ashley Holding, a sustainable textile marketing consultant and founding father of Circuvate.
He was not speaking about Adidas particularly. Almost all manufacturers depend on PET plastic water bottles to feed the recycling crops. And Adidas may be very conscious of the criticism that recycling bottles into polyester is simply one other type of greenwashing, permitting manufacturers to make feel-good claims about all of the bottles that had been saved from the landfill, which is, fairly frankly, a stretch. If that had been true, the proliferation of recycled polyester throughout these big manufacturers ought to have had some impact on the plastics recycling price. Instead, no less than within the US, the speed of plastics recycling is declining.
Neither is polyester constituted of recycled bottles really (cue the trumpets) round, with clothes being made into new clothes ceaselessly. It’s extra just like the plastic made one fast loop again by the buyer world earlier than heading to the landfill. The reality is, whereas water bottles could be recycled again into bottles a number of extra occasions, as soon as PET is made into polyester, that’s the final time it may be recycled.
Oh, and the microfiber downside remains to be there for recycled polyester. In truth, a recent study discovered that mechanical recycling crops can create huge quantities of microplastics which can be flushed with the wastewater.
“From a circularity perspective, ideally we would recycle water bottles into water bottles and textiles into textiles,” Sharon Chen, director of enterprise growth at Baichuan Resources Recycling in China, told the Manufactured podcast in May. “The answer is: technology. It’s hard to maintain the purity needed to make a new bottle feedstock.”
To mechanically recycle PET plastic—to soften it down and reform it—the fabric must be pure and freed from dyes, finishes, trims, or different sorts of plastics, like spandex. Clear plastic water bottles are so coveted as a result of for the needs of a textile mill, they’re primarily simply dye-free, container-shaped pellets.
Used textiles, alternatively, have all types of contaminants and are available vastly various high quality and colours. In Europe, used polycotton and different textile blends are collected at three times the rate of 100-percent polyester, and that doesn’t even account for the dyes and finishes current in just about every thing.
Imagine filling a blender with 5 flavors of ice cream, together with some containing nuts and marshmallows and rainbow sprinkles. The blended end result can be a disgusting grey mess. Oh, and a few fool dumped their spoon into the combination as nicely, so now your blender is damaged. That’s concerning the state of used clothes collections.
The North Carolina firm Unifi is without doubt one of the few producers to promote a polyester constituted of recycled textiles. (It additionally creates a well-liked bottle-to-polyester recycled textile referred to as Repreve.) Unifi has solved this contamination downside by solely accepting pre-consumer, 100-percent-polyester waste straight from factories and mixing carbon black into the polyester whereas it’s gooey. The result’s a pure black recycled polyester. Unlike polyester constituted of bottles, you can name it “circular” with a straight face.
Eddie Ingle, Unifi’s CEO, is tentatively enthusiastic about sourcing post-consumer polyester waste however admits, “You run the risk of getting people just dumping stuff on you.” He tells the story of receiving a pallet of baggage the corporate was informed had been 100-percent polyester. His staff needed to hand-cut out the non-polyester plastic backside—an costly proposition while you’re paying American wages.