A Brief Background About Polyester Fibers and PET Bottles
The development of polyester fiber from recycled bottles is actually a matter of re-channeling the use of the chemical “polyethylene terephthalate” which is also the chemical ingredient in PET bottles. Both polyester and PET bottles are basically made from the chemical “polyethylene terephthalate”. It was proven to be more cost efficient if polyester fabrics were manufactured by just recycling PET bottles, since there will be less heating and energy required in processing the polymer ingredient.
Half of the processing required by the chemical “polyethylene terephthalate” to reach the desirable consistency of a viscose liquid will be eliminated. Only the other half of the process, which starts from breaking down the PET plastic into chips up to applying finishing on the textile product, will be required in manufacturing polyester fabric from recycled plastic bottles. Hence, the recycling process is more cost efficient as well as eco-friendly since it provides another destination for PET bottle wastes instead of sending them to landfills.
In fact, PET is the acronym for Poly Ethylene Terephthalate and was used to distinguish plastic bottles from those that were made from the hazardous clear plastic bottles made from polycarbonate. Polycarbonate bottles have been found to leach even at room temperature. However, PET bottles for drinking water are recommended for single use only instead of being recycled through reuse.
How is Polyester Fiber from Recycled Bottles Made?
Bales of plastic bottle wastes will be supplied by recycle collectors. Workers of the yarn manufacturer will have to separate the colored bottles from the clear ones while every bottle will be inspected if free from any foreign materials including the labels and the caps.
The sorted PET bottles will be sterilized clean, dried and crushed into small chips still separating the clear PET bottle chips from colored PET bottle chips.
Once the chips are ready they will go through heating that will enable them to pass to the spinneret until they end up being wound up like yarn threads in spools. The fibers are drawn into smooth strings, and then go through a crimping machine which will give the polyester yarns the fluffy wooly texture. The crimped polyester yarns will be dried and baled and will have to pass quality control before they are considered fit for selling.
Textile manufacturers will buy the polyester yarns from the yarn makers. The white yarns will be bleached or dyed then fed to a circular knitting machine after the bleach or color has dried. The finished product is now the polyester fabric from recycled bottles.
However, in order to achieve different textures, the polyester fabric will go through a napper machine. Here, the polyester fabric will pass through mechanized bristles that will give the fabric texture by raising the fabric’s surface and shearing the raised threads with a yarn to even out the surface. The polyester fabrics from plastic bottles will become textiles like fleece wool, corduroy, velvet and other similar textiles with piled textures.
Environmental Impact of Polyester Fabrics Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
The manufacture of polyester fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles is more energy efficient compared to the manufacture of virgin polyester fabrics since the latter has to start with the processing and heating of the chemical “polyethylene terephthalate” to achieve the required consistency .
An extra-large T-shirt is equivalent to 14 PET bottles while a sweater is equivalent to 63 PET bottles. A square foot of carpet uses up about 14 PET bottles while a sleeping bag is made of about 83 PET bottles. A ski jacket is equivalent to 20 PET bottles. If more and more people are into buying garments made of polyester fabrics from recycled plastic bottles, then fewer of the plastic bottles used by consumers will go into landfills. To date, it is said that at least 75% of plastic bottles manufactured during the year still end up in landfills.
Nevertheless, several PET recycled garment companies are now introducing business suits and trousers for both men and women. The suits are not only more economical but are easier to care for as well. The business suits can be machine washed, eliminating the need for dry-cleaning.
Images courtesy of wikimediacommons
This post is part of the series: Recycling Technologies
- The Latest Recycling Technologies in Using Recycled Fiber
- Polyester Fiber from Recycled Bottles Providing Cost Efficiency in Textile Manufacture