Recycling Plastic Bottles for Fashion | Watson & Wolfe

How can recycled plastic bottles be luxurious?

Let’s understand the basics

 

The decision as to whether a material is luxurious is somewhat subjective, but to us luxury is not merely an expensive price tag or scarcity. In the modern age of fashion, and all it’s many interpretations, luxury has become a reflection of the brand or designer, rather than the materials they use. Here we talk about rPET, so let’s begin by understanding what rPET is and how it is made.

 

How is plastic recycled into fabric?

 

Once a product has served its purpose and is recycled it is considered post-consumer content. Our material is made from 100% post-consumer content.

 

Once the bottles are salvaged, the next step is to shred them into tiny pieces and separate out the caps and labels. The caps of plastic bottles are a different kind of plastic than the PET bottle itself. After the material is shredded, it is left to dry before being processed through an a machine called an extruder.

 

The plastic is heated and forced through tiny holes which resembles something like a shower head to create long continuous fibers. Then they are torn apart into short pieces, bailed and sent for spinning into yarn. At this point the fiber closely resembles wool. The yarn is ultimately made in to a fabric, of which various thicknesses and quality are used in the fashion and textiles industry today.

 

What can you make from recycled plastic bottles?

 

When plastic bottles are recycled they can be made into lots of things: t-shirts, sweaters, fleece jackets, insulation for jackets and sleeping bags, carpeting and more bottles. It takes about 10 bottles to make enough plastic fiber to make a cool new t-shirt. It takes 63 bottles to make a sweater. (1)

 

Why did we choose recycled plastic bottles?

 

rPET yarn produces a polyester fabric and is almost the same as virgin polyester in terms of quality, but its production requires 60 percent less energy compared to virgin polyester.

 

Many luxury leather wallet brands use polyester or nylon lining fabrics, but these are usually produced from virgin petroleum based material.

 

Our decision process

 

Our initial design meetings were dominated by conversation around the lining of our collection and we were really keen to utilise a material which required less resources.

 

We explored a number of fabrics which are inherently hard to recycle such as used balloon silks and spinnaker sails, but all were not suitable. We were passionate about using a fabric which would either end up in landfill, was not easily recycled or that came from recycling a waste product. More importantly, it had to look, feel and be a quality lining material.

 

After several weeks of searching and testing samples, we finally struck upon a rPET fabric which was more superior in quality than any before it. The company was in Asia and their sustainability and green credentials aligned with our brand values.  Alongside recycling plastic bottles, they also work with ECONYL® regenerated nylon, a product introduced in 2011 by Aquafil. It is made entirely from ocean and landfill waste, such as industrial plastic, fabric scraps from clothing manufacturing companies, old carpets and “ghost nets”.

 

What is the environmental saving?

 

 

Our planet is overflowing with waste and we believe that all suppliers and manufacturers have the opportunity to rethink how they design, what materials they use and the impact their supply chain has on our environment.

 

Can rPET fabric be luxurious?

 

Absolutely. Our woven rPET lining material is made for us using a weave we have chosen. The weave is visible, thick and strong. It has a shimmering finish and each colour is exclusively dyed for us.

 

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It really begs the question; if we can reduce the environmental impact of fashion by reducing, reusing and recycling waste materials, without compromising on quality, shouldn’t we all be doing that?

 

You can read more about our materials here.

 

Resources

(1)  recycleandrecoverplastics.org
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