Trendy and affordable apparel companies sell millions of clothing items each year that are made out of polyester. Polyester is derived from petroleum so is definitely not considered a “green” fabric. But an article on the well-known eco-fashion blog Ecouterre.com claimed that recycled polyester could be the next big eco clothing material. If put into a landfill, and not recycled, petroleum products such as polyester will generally last between 250 and 500 years! However, Ecouterremade some very valid points about how recycled polyester could be the next big thing.
Polyester, though synthetic and petroleum based, can be a great material for clothing because it requires less care than clothing made from some eco-fibers. Polyester can be washed in cold water and easily air dries, plus, the fabric is naturally resistant to wrinkles, meaning an energy-wasting iron is not often needed. This as the “use-phase” of a garment, stating that the use-phase of polyester has a smaller carbon footprint than other fabrics, though its overall footprint is larger. Eco-consumers often forget about the use-phase footprint when shopping for clothing or fabric items, rather, they look for evidence that the object was sustainably produced. The use-phase and disposal of a fabric item usually account for 50-80% of the overall carbon footprint. Merida Home addresses this issue by producing many natural fiber area rugs that are 100% biodegradable. Merida also strives to make sure all products are durable and long-lasting in order to minimize use-phase waste.
Recycling polyester could potentially solve the “overall footprint” issue if a closed-loop production system is implemented. A closed-loop system would mean that ALL polyester would be recycled into new consumer items so that NO new polyester would ever need to be produced. While this seems far-fetched, it could actually work because polyester is very easily recyclable. So, if consumers were well educated on how to recycle their polyester garments, a closed loop-system could eventually become viable. A closed-loop polyester recycling industry would give recycled polyester the edge over many other eco-fibers, because though other eco-fibers are often organically produced, they are still largely made from virgin materials that are grown far from the U.S.. That combined with recycled polyester’s minimal use-phase footprint give designers and environmentalists a reason to stay open minded regarding this once-detested synthetic material.
Cameron Bruns is the founder of Boston Green Blog and a contributor to Merida, the premier source for distinctively designed natural rugs with a conscience for sustainability.