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Introduction

Synthetic fabrics derived from petrochemicals currently make up 65% of all textiles produced globally.


With increasing reliance on fossil fuels creating concern in the industry, a growing market for sustainable sources of synthetics has emerged including recycled fibres (from both waste plastic and other synthetic textiles) and bio-based (rather than oil-based). 


Read more about the size of synthetics production globally here

Introduction

Synthetic fabrics derived from petrochemicals currently make up 65% of all textiles produced globally.


With increasing reliance on fossil fuels creating concern in the industry, a growing market for sustainable sources of synthetics has emerged including recycled fibres (from both waste plastic and other synthetic textiles) and bio-based (rather than oil-based). 


Read more about the size of synthetics production globally here

Key Sustainability Issues

Microplastics: Up to a million tons of plastic microfibres pollute oceans and waterways each year from the washing of synthetic clothes, threatening sea life and human health.

CO2 emissions: In 2015, polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion kg of CO2 - nearly three times more than for cotton.

Water pollution: Factories producing polyester without proper wastewater treatment systems can release dangerous substances into the environment.

Occupying landfill: As an oil-based plastic, polyester does not biodegrade like natural fibres.

Key Sustainability Issues

Microplastics: Up to a million tons of plastic microfibres pollute oceans and waterways each year from the washing of synthetic clothes, threatening sea life and human health.

CO2 emissions: In 2015, polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion kg of CO2 - nearly three times more than for cotton.

Water pollution: Factories producing polyester without proper wastewater treatment systems can release dangerous substances into the environment.

Occupying landfill: As an oil-based plastic, polyester does not biodegrade like natural fibres.

Recycled alternatives

In the last 10 years, a new generation of recycling has emerged which takes synthetic materials already in existence (plastic bottles, ocean plastic, pre & post consumer waste textiles) and recycles them into new quality fibres.

Does this mean the end of virgin polyester made from petrochemicals?

Recycled alternatives

In the last 10 years, a new generation of recycling has emerged which takes synthetic materials already in existence (plastic bottles, ocean plastic, pre & post consumer waste textiles) and recycles them into new quality fibres.

Does this mean the end of virgin polyester made from petrochemicals?

Regenerated nylon

ECONYL® regenerated nylon is a product that is made from rescued plastic waste like fishing nets and industrial plastic. 

A nylon fibre is then completely regenerated to produce a product that is identical to its virgin counterpart and infinitely recyclable.

Brands using Econyl include Kowtow (pictured here), Finisterre, Outerknown, Triumph, H&M, Stella McCartney, La Perla, and many more.

Regenerated nylon

ECONYL® regenerated nylon is a product that is made from rescued plastic waste like fishing nets and industrial plastic. 

A nylon fibre is then completely regenerated to produce a product that is identical to its virgin counterpart and infinitely recyclable.

Brands using Econyl include Kowtow (pictured here), Finisterre, Outerknown, Triumph, H&M, Stella McCartney, La Perla, and many more.

Recycled performance fibres

Repreve is a performance fibre made from recycled materials including plastic bottles. Over 12 billion bottles have been recycled so far.

Brands currently using Repreve include Patagonia, Volcom, Prana, Quicksilver, Mara Hoffman, Kathmandu, and Lane Silver.

Recycled performance fibres

Repreve is a performance fibre made from recycled materials including plastic bottles. Over 12 billion bottles have been recycled so far.

Brands currently using Repreve include Patagonia, Volcom, Prana, Quicksilver, Mara Hoffman, Kathmandu, and Lane Silver.

Circular polyester

Teijin works with sportswear manufacturers on its recycled Eco Circle line not just to develop products made of the recycled polyester but also to collect and recycle them again at the end of their useful life.

According to Teijin this repeatable recycling system reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 80% each.

The Teijin ECO STORM® is a recyclable, waterproof/breathable material made from recycled fibres. The material is waterproof and breathable making it excellent for outdoor-wear.

Circular polyester

Teijin works with sportswear manufacturers on its recycled Eco Circle line not just to develop products made of the recycled polyester but also to collect and recycle them again at the end of their useful life.

According to Teijin this repeatable recycling system reduces energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 80% each.

The Teijin ECO STORM® is a recyclable, waterproof/breathable material made from recycled fibres. The material is waterproof and breathable making it excellent for outdoor-wear.

Rescuing end-of-life waste

Osomtex yarns and fabrics are made completely from discarded post-consumer and post-industrial textile waste.

The upcycling process uses no water, no dyes, and no harsh chemicals.

In March 2018, Stella McCartney created an upcycled, zero-waste sock with Osomtex yarn (pictured). 

Rescuing end-of-life waste

Osomtex yarns and fabrics are made completely from discarded post-consumer and post-industrial textile waste.

The upcycling process uses no water, no dyes, and no harsh chemicals.

In March 2018, Stella McCartney created an upcycled, zero-waste sock with Osomtex yarn (pictured). 

Bio-based polyester

There are a number of bio-based materials that can now be used instead of crude oil to produce polyester. 

Bio-based polyester

There are a number of bio-based materials that can now be used instead of crude oil to produce polyester. 

Fighting microplastics

Addressing the microplastic problem is Italian fabrics specialist Pontetorto whose Biopile fleece is made from Lenzing's cellulosic fibre Tencel® and therefore doesn't shed microplastics when washed. 

The fabric was used exclusively by outdoor brand VAUDE (pictured) for their AW 2018/19 collection. 

Fighting microplastics

Addressing the microplastic problem is Italian fabrics specialist Pontetorto whose Biopile fleece is made from Lenzing's cellulosic fibre Tencel® and therefore doesn't shed microplastics when washed. 

The fabric was used exclusively by outdoor brand VAUDE (pictured) for their AW 2018/19 collection. 

Innovation in Italian mills

Fabric supplier, Brugnoli, is using fellow Italian company, Fulgar's bio- and recycled-polyester fibres to supply more sustainable polyester to the fashion industry. 

Brugnoli's Br4® fabric range uses Evo® by Fulgar® (see previous slide). These fabrics are light and stretchy with good thermal control.

Their B.Recycled range uses the regenerated nylon fibre Q-Nova® by Fulgar® and claims to be a 'zero-kilometre' product because of its supply chain that can be fully traced from the Fulgar recycling factory to the Brugnoli mill nearby which produces, dyes, and finishes the fabric. 

Innovation in Italian mills

Fabric supplier, Brugnoli, is using fellow Italian company, Fulgar's bio- and recycled-polyester fibres to supply more sustainable polyester to the fashion industry. 

Brugnoli's Br4® fabric range uses Evo® by Fulgar® (see previous slide). These fabrics are light and stretchy with good thermal control.

Their B.Recycled range uses the regenerated nylon fibre Q-Nova® by Fulgar® and claims to be a 'zero-kilometre' product because of its supply chain that can be fully traced from the Fulgar recycling factory to the Brugnoli mill nearby which produces, dyes, and finishes the fabric. 

Fabric suppliers 

Online fabric wholesalers, Vivify Textiles, offer a wide range of recycled polyester and nylon fabrics including satin, chiffon, crepe, interlock and suede, as well as blends with organic cotton.

Fabric suppliers 

Online fabric wholesalers, Vivify Textiles, offer a wide range of recycled polyester and nylon fabrics including satin, chiffon, crepe, interlock and suede, as well as blends with organic cotton.

Custom sustainable fabrics

Portuguese fabric supplier, Tintex commits to using at least 60% sustainable materials in its custom designed fabrics. 

It is also a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “Make Fashion Circular” initiative and has said it “aims to amplify and grow an eco-sustainable strategy for all its production”.

Responsible synthetics on offer include innovative fabrics blending recycled polyester, Roica Ecosmart yarns and Tencel.

Custom sustainable fabrics

Portuguese fabric supplier, Tintex commits to using at least 60% sustainable materials in its custom designed fabrics. 

It is also a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “Make Fashion Circular” initiative and has said it “aims to amplify and grow an eco-sustainable strategy for all its production”.

Responsible synthetics on offer include innovative fabrics blending recycled polyester, Roica Ecosmart yarns and Tencel.

Print-your-own recycled polyester

For designers wishing to print on recycled polyester, Print Unlimited in the Netherlands has a range of plain and printed knitted fabric made from Vita recycled polyester which is ideal for dresses and activewear.

Print-your-own recycled polyester

For designers wishing to print on recycled polyester, Print Unlimited in the Netherlands has a range of plain and printed knitted fabric made from Vita recycled polyester which is ideal for dresses and activewear.

Fabric Switch: Sourcing Sustainable Polyester

From recycled fibres to bio-materials, new and established polyester suppliers are developing innovative ways to reduce their environmental impact. Use this guide to find alternatives to conventional polyester and synthetic fabrics.

   

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