As the use of PET increases worldwide, experts get worried about the increasing waste and its hazardous effects on the ecological system. Since it remains intact forever (or a longer time), it is always advisable to recycle it and use in other industries. So far, PET has been used successfully in production of synthetic fabric. It reduces production cost considerably and keeps the environment clean.
Use of recycled bottles in manufacturing textiles is a way of reusing a chemical that exists in PET bottles. It is called polyethylene Terephthalate that is also the basic ingredient of polyester fabric. Researchers have proved that use of PET bottles results in cost-efficient manufacturing of fabric because of less energy requirement. Bottles made from hazardous polycarbonate are not suitable for manufacturing fabrics.
There are two fundamental benefits of the whole process.
- Fibers can be produced from the viscous liquid of polyethylene Terephthalate. When recycled material is used, only half of the energy is needed to reach the desired state.
- When plastic junk gets consumed for production of fresh fabric, it is an eco-friendly process reducing solid waste from trenching grounds and landfills.
There are various stages of the process.
- Recycle collectors supply piles of bottles to the manufacturing unit. The first step is to separate them based on color. Workers inspect each bottle to ensure there are no foreign particles/caps/labels.
- Sorted bottles go through cleaning and sterilizing process. They move to drying section and then crushed into small chips.
- The chips move to the next process i.e. heating and spinning to change their shape and appearance. Chips get converted into fine threads. These threads get converted into smooth strings that move further to crimping machines. These machines change their structure and texture and make them fluffy like wool. These yarns go to drier section and then pass through quality control tests. Only the best fibers are declared fit for selling.
- For colored fabrics, white yarns move to dying section where bleaching and dying process change their appearance. The finished product is ready for dispatch after quality checking.
- It is also possible to give different texture and effects to polyester fabrics made from PET bottles. Wool, velvet, corduroy and denim finish are the most popular ones. Special napper machines are used for it where yarns pass through mechanical bristles. These bristles raise the surface of the fabric and shear the raised thread for a realistic effect.
Why recycled fabrics should be preferred?
These fabrics are more eco-friendly than virgin ones because they have fewer energy needs. Also, they are economical and affordable. According to estimates, still 75% of plastic bottles go to landfills or they contaminate environment. If more than 90 percent of them get recycled, there will be immense benefit for the environment. Since these fabrics are cheaper than virgin ones, customers have an added advantage. It is said that a sweater is made from 60 bottles whereas a T-shirt needs 14. Carpets, sleeping bags, tapestry and many other things can be made from this fabric. Companies are doing research for making business suits with this fabric. It will be lightweight, cheap, and maintenance free.