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Are there disadvantages of recycled polyester?

The Disadvantages of Recycled Polyester and How to Solve It?

You probably already know the advantages of recycled polyester. In terms of quality, recycled polyester fiber performs just as well, if not better, than virgin polyester. It’s durable and sustainable. And, it typically requires less energy and carbon emissions to manufacture. But are there disadvantages of recycled polyester? The answer is: yes and no.  

Circularity of Polyester: Polyester fabric scraps become recycled PET pellets, which become recycled PET fiber, which is used to make apparel, which is recycled back into fabric scraps.
Circularity of Polyester: Polyester fabric scraps become recycled PET pellets, which become recycled PET fiber, which is used to make apparel, which is recycled back into fabric scraps.

Let’s take a look at a few of the common concerns people have about recycled fabric (and how to overcome them). 

Cost of recycled polyester

One possible disadvantage of recycled polyester is the advanced technologies manufacturers use to create recycled fabric can be more costly than virgin polyester, but not always. It depends on several variables. For example, if you compare the cost of recycling with the environmental cost of virgin plastic, the winner is recycled fabric. 

Virgin polyester production requires fossil fuels (petroleum). It strains our planet’s natural resources and biodiversity. On the other hand, recycled polyester reduces our dependency on these resources. A 2017 research study found that manufacturing rPET generates 79% less carbon emissions than producing virgin material. So, using recycled polyester can help corporations meet their climate targets — which benefits the environment, the business, and the consumer. 

But there are other costs to consider too. Some big cities are finding that the cost of recycling plastic is less than the cost of disposal. A study from the University of California estimated that cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco benefit economically from recycling instead of dumping. The savings are as much as $200 per ton. Recycling reduces the amount of land the city requires for waste management. Over time, those cost savings really add up. 

Availability of recycled polyester

Some companies and consumers are concerned about the lack of availability of recycled polyester fabric. In the past, it was much easier to find virgin polyester fibers and pellets. But that trend is shifting. As consumer demand for sustainable plastic grows, it has generated a shift in businesses and manufacturing practices. 

Recycled Plastic PET pellets
Recycled Plastic PET pellets ready to be processed into recycled fiber

Availability is also related to cost. The cost of virgin PET plastic rises with the rise in global oil and petroleum prices. Trade magazines such as Plastics News have observed that the cost of virgin pellets is starting to climb higher than the cost of recycled pellets. This means fiber mills may have easier access to recycled materials. In turn, recycled polyester fiber will become more widely available to meet consumer demand.

Circularity of recycled polyester

Recycled polyester is very durable and sustainable. But, consumers still need to know what to do with their worn-out recycled clothing. They could donate it to someone else and extend its life, or find garment recycling centers so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Some clothing brands offer recycling or buy-back programs to increase circularity. 

Yet, one of the disadvantages of recycled polyester is most polyester fabric can only be recycled so many times before it reaches the end of its life cycle. 

The circularity of a garment largely depends on the recycling method. If the polyester undergoes mechanical recycling, machines wash and shred and turn the fabric into polyester chips. Factories then melt and transform the chips into new fibers. During this process, however, the fiber can lose its strength, especially if it’s a blend of other fabrics like cotton. As a result, recyclers will mix the recycled chips with virgin polyester. 

However, during chemical recycling or advanced recycling processes, manufacturers break down recycled polyester to the molecular level. This preserves the integrity of the original polyester monomer and makes it easier to create new fibers that are just as strong as the original. No need to mix in virgin materials. 

The total number of tons of textiles generated, recycled,  and land-filled between 1960 and 2018. Chart courtesy of epa. org
The total number of tons of textiles generated, recycled, and land-filled between 1960 and 2018. Chart courtesy of epa. org

So, the answer to the concern about circularity is simple: advanced recycling techniques will keep polyester fibers and garments in use much longer. In time, brands and consumers will find that this is the most cost effective and convenient option too. 

The bottom line? Soon, the perceived disadvantages of recycled polyester will fade away, thanks to technology and accessibility.

To learn more about our recycling methods, contact change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

What is polyester fiber made out of and how is it evolving?

Polyester fiber has come a long way since the uncomfortable suits of the 1960s. Thanks to technology, the fabric quality and feel has improved. Today, polyester is the most popular fiber in the world. It accounts for roughly half of the overall fiber market and around 80 percent of synthetics, according to Textile Exchange. But many wonder: What exactly is polyester? What is it made out of? And how is it different from other textiles?

items made of polyester
Some of polyester’s most common uses: Upholstery fabric, luggage, threads and yarns, hosiery, sportswear, food and beverage containers

First, consider that polyester was discovered in a chemistry lab, not a textile mill. Polyester is a polymer, a long chain of repeating molecular units. Those units typically include an acid, an alcohol, and an ester (a type of organic compound). The most common type of polyester is polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. PET is typically derived from crude oil. It’s the same kind of plastic companies use to make things like soda or water bottles. When you melt PET, you can stretch it like taffy. The more you stretch it, the more it resembles long filaments, which become fibers. Weave together those fibers, and you create polyester fabric. Sometimes, manufacturers combine the fibers with other textiles or materials to create polyester blends. 

Model of molecular structure of polyester fibers
Model of molecular structure of polyester fibers

The result is a fabric that is strong, resistant to shrinking or stretching, quick-drying, and more durable than natural fibers. In other words, fabrics that are ideal for active and everyday wear. 

Polyester Benefits

Over the past several years, clothing manufacturers have seen the benefits of polyester. Unlike leisure suits of the 1960s, today people can’t tell by looking at a garment whether it’s polyester. It’s inexpensive, easy to blend with other materials, and it can be gentle on the environment too. Unlike cotton, which requires extensive land, water, and labor to mill, polyester can be created from recycled bottles, old fabric scraps, or various combinations of virgin and recycled fabric. Technologies like ChromShield ensure that the recycled fibers are just as beautiful and vibrant as virgin fiber. 

SAYA's ChromShield technology protects the pigment dyed polyester core of the fiber
SAYA’s ChromShield technology protects the pigment dyed polyester core of the fiber

In fact, more and more, companies are looking to recycled plastic bottles as a source for creating new polyester fiber. Innovations in plastic recycling and fiber blends means that one garment may contain a mix of recycled and virgin polyester, or a blend of polyester and natural fibers. The possibilities are endless. 

To learn more about polyester fiber, contact change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

How circularity can put an end to plastic waste

Surprising Products Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles – SAYA

In the face of climate change, pollution, and population growth, businesses are looking for more sustainable solutions. One of those solutions is circularity. Circularity disrupts the idea that items like plastic are disposable. Instead, it focuses on reuse and recycling. 

Can you imagine a world without trash? 

In a circular economy, however, post-consumer waste is recaptured, reused, or recycled and put back into the economy.
In a circular economy post-consumer waste is recaptured, reused, or recycled and put back into the economy.

In the old, linear model of economics, manufacturers take a natural resource and turn it into a product. A consumer then uses the product and throws it away. For example, a tree is cut down and turned into lumber, which is made into furniture. A customer buys the furniture and uses it until it breaks, then throws it away. The process is linear, as products travel from point A to point B to point C. The end of the line is usually a landfill or the ocean. 

In a circular economy, however, post-consumer waste is recaptured, reused, or recycled and put back into the economy. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Circularity means we use resources sparingly and recycle over and over again, capturing as much utility as possible. 

Proponents of circularity say that growing the global economy requires this harmony with nature.

Applying Circularity to Plastics

For some materials, like metals, circularity is an easy choice. You just capture the used metal, melt it down and create new products. As the steel industry discovered, remanufacturing and reuse is less expensive and more sustainable than making new metal. 

A circular plastic economy is a bit more challenging. That’s because manufacturers need to design plastic products with recycling and reuse in mind. And companies use different techniques to renew plastic into products such as fibers, clothing, building materials or household items. 

A sea of plastic waste which could be renewed with plastic recycling and circularity
A sea of plastic waste which could be renewed with plastic recycling and circularity

According to The SustainAbility Institute, companies need more incentives to reuse and recycle. And, one of the biggest incentives is consumer demand. Understanding the value and usability of the recycled products is key. The private sector can lead the way, especially in Asia where many plastics originate. How? By showing the world the innovative products that we can make from recycled bottles and other plastics. 

Using advanced recycling techniques, companies are creating fibers and fabrics that perform better than their non-recycled counterparts. Some companies in Europe and Asia are even pioneering ways to renew hard-to-recycle plastics into food-grade plastic products. They’re finding ways to not only recycle plastic bottles and containers, but also recover plastic waste from the oceans. 

The hope is that in the coming years, virgin plastic will become obsolete. 

Closing the loop

Athletic apparel made out of performance recycled polyester
Athletic apparel made out of performance recycled polyester

SAYA is proud to help close the loop and make plastic circularity a reality. We partner with major consumer brands and like-minded manufacturers to bring innovative, high performance fibers and fabrics to consumers worldwide. 

To learn more, contact change@sayarenew.com

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news

The Journey To Circularity

TEXTILE INSIGHT MAGAZINE July/August 2021 – With the launch of the Rscuw Project, and Saya’s recognition of material waste as a valuable resource, the company continues to clear a pathway to more eco-conscious advancements. In fact, work is already underway creating pilot projects to renew pre-consumer cutting scraps and overstock with key strategic brands.

Worker carries roll of fabric made from recycled plastic
Worker carries roll of fabric made from recycled plastic

Saya is further elevating renewal efforts, and gathering data, to aid the next big breakthrough: textile-to-textile recycling. In addition, Saya is on track with renewal efforts designed to sort and clean finished garments. This action will facilitate garment recycling, considered the key to opening the door to total circularity.

These commitments to establishing a robust system of renewal will hasten the upcoming introduction of SAYA Garma, a project to recycle finished garments, projected for commercialization by Fall 2022.

Looking even further ahead, the company envisions new and different ways to produce polyester from ingredients other than petroleum. Ready To Renew “As one of the world’s largest producers of PET (both virgin and recycled), we understand that increasing the recycling rate is very important,” states Jack Chen, Saya director of R&D. (The current recycling rate in the United States is only 29 percent compared to 72 percent in Japan and 48 percent in Europe).

It is also important to note that Saya parent company Nan Ya Plastics has been producing recycled PET out of bottles for more than ten years in 13 facilities worldwide, producing an average of 72,000 tonnes (1 ton = 2000 lbs) of recycled fiber each year. This scale of operation allows R&D into more efficient manufacturing methods and superior and new performance options in fiber.

Also critical to the company’s efforts is Saya’s proprietary 5-step filtration process and 2-step purification process. What makes this technology stand out from others? And why is it needed? The answer is quality: The biggest challenge in post consumer recycling and renewing is the equality and purity of goods. In order to provide recycled fibers consistently with superior dyeability and strength that can cater to mass market demands, it’s not just a quick flush of bottle under a hose. Saya’s proprietary purification process becomes mission critical for global brands to rely on.

Charting a Sustainable Future: A Timeline of SAYA’s Strides in Renewal Technology

We strive to build upon our successes by finding innovative ways to improve the sustainability performance of our products.

2010-2015

Launch bottle-to-textile recycling

Draw and spin fibers with post-consumer recycling content PET (rPET) chips from Japan

Received certification from Global Recycled Standard (GRS) 2.0

2016-2018

Expanded to new streams of GRS certified rPET flake to include sources from Japan, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippine, Indonesia and USA

Launched antimony-free virgin PET (titanium-based catalyst)

Increased from recycling 32,000 tonnes/year of plastic bottles into rPET yarn in 2018 to 65,000 tonnes/year in 2019

2020

Expanded recycled processing capacity to 174,000 tonnes/year

GRS 4.0 certified

bluesign® certification for select manufacturing sites for yarns

Pilot SAC’s Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) and adoption of Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI) to assess environmental impacts of materials and processes

Converting garment cutting scraps and overstock fabrics into new yarn – the SAYA Rscuw Project

2021

Expanded recycled processing capacity to 216,000 tonnes/year

bluesign® certification for additional manufacturing sites for yarns

Adopted SAC’s Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM)

Pursue Fair Trade certification to ensure we make a positive difference for the workers that make our products

Commercialization of the SAYA Rscuw Project – converting cutting scraps and overstock fabric into new yarn

https://viewer.e-digitaledition.com/i/1395728-july-august-2021/18?

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news

SAYA Cutting Edge Renewal of Overstock Fabric to New Yarn

Scrap polyester fabric ready to be recycled
Scrap polyester fabric ready to be recycled

TEXTILE INSIGHT MAGAZINE July/August 2021 – Saya is doing more to promote circularity while doing less harm to the environment. By expanding sources of recycled fiber and innovating responsible manufacturing processes Saya leads the way to a more sustainable future.

Saya is in the business of renewal. What that means is that Saya is always actively seeking new sources, and new processes, to advance sustainable solutions, driven by the fact that the supply of plastic to recycle is not endless.

The company’s latest innovation takes direct aim at solving one of the biggest impacts of the textile industry: material waste. Most people don’t realize this but every year between 20 and 40 percent of new yardage becomes wasted fabric in the form of cutting room scraps and overstock. Although the problem of pre-consumer waste isn’t obvious to the general public, it is clearly a challenge facing the textile community and industry at large.

SAYA factory with rolls of spun recycled polyester
SAYA factory with rolls of spun recycled polyester

The rise of fast fashion and just-in time delivery, along with the escalating trend of e-commerce has put greater demand on global manufacturers to prepare greige and fabrics earlier and earlier in the production cycle. But when markets change abruptly, as experienced in extreme measure during the pandemic, inventories swell with what becomes deadstock.

Saya has a cutting edge renewal solution ready to address this global problem. It’s called the Rscuw Project, a commercialized recycling program that successfully turns the inconvenient reality of textile garment waste into an opportunity for progress. The company’s efficient, centralized system takes rolls of fabric and offcuts that are not used to make a garment and transforms them into durable and functional polyester fibers.

Worker carries roll of fabric made from recycled plastic
Worker carries roll of fabric made from recycled plastic

Saya is not alone in focusing on the issue of pre-consumer textile waste. Indeed it will take a collective effort by industry members to succeed in the goal of creating a modern closed loop textile supply chain. However, Saya’s forward thinking approach to renewal technology sparked the company to act quickly with investment and scalability placing Saya in a leadership position.

“Continuous innovation in renewal technologies is important to increase the yield and of the recycled goods collected,” explains Saya’s Director of R&D Jack Chen. “This is the only way we can someday achieve circularity.”

https://viewer.e-digitaledition.com/i/1395728-july-august-2021/18?

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knowledge-base

Surprising Products Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles – SAYA

Surprising Products Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles - SAYA
Landfill with plastic which could be diverted to a recycling facility

Have you ever wondered what happens to that plastic bottle after you toss it into the recycling bin? For many of us, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” In reality, the bottle goes through an important journey to eventually become new products like recycled polyester fabric, PET,  toys, or building materials. Recycling companies use different technologies to convert post-consumer plastic into new materials. Some technologies are mechanical and others chemical. Some even offer more advanced, proprietary recycling technology. Here is a brief overview of each.

Mechanical Recycling

PET flakes from mechanical recycling
PET flakes from mechanical recycling

Mechanical recycling involves physically crushing and grinding the plastic into small flakes or granules. Mechanical recyclers take those small pieces and melt and reform them into new plastic products, such as toys, recycled plastic containers, or building supplies like deck planks or lumber

To be successful, mechanical recycling requires careful sorting of recycled plastics. This is because not all types of plastic are suitable for grinding and reuse. Machines sort the plastics by type, thickness, color, and size. Some types of plastic are unusable and discarded. So while mechanical can be less expensive than other technologies, it doesn’t keep every piece of plastic out of landfills. 

Traditional Chemical Recycling

Chemical Recycling of plastics
Chemical Recycling of plastics

Chemical recycling is one answer to the problem of how to recycle plastic that is difficult to process mechanically. That’s because chemical recycling breaks down the plastic at the molecular level, using solvents or chemicals. The result is a raw material that companies transform into a wide variety of products, from synthetic fuel to fibers. 

Chemical recycling can handle more types of plastics and more contaminants. In other words, consumers don’t have to be as diligent about sorting and washing their plastics before putting them in the recycling bin. This means a higher percentage of recycled plastics can be renewed.

A concern about chemical recycling is the expense and the chemical byproducts. For that reason, some companies are looking to refine the process to be cleaner and more efficient. 

Advanced Plastic Recycling Technologies 

Saya's 5 Stage Filtration and 2 Purification Process
Saya’s 5 Stage Filtration and 2 Purification Process

Advances to chemical recycling are making it cleaner and more effective than ever before. The future of recycling plastic bottles includes implementing more efficient technology. For instance, SAYA uses advanced plastic recycling technology to renew water bottles into yarns for multiple uses. We renew discarded water bottles through a proprietary, five-stage filtration process. This is followed by two stages of purification for guaranteed safety and purity.

The resulting flakes are then transported to in-house facilities. There, the facilities batch-optimize them to control color and tenacity. After that, they transform them into pellets. The pellets are then ready to be extruded into recycled yarns designated for a specific end-use.

The results of this process are remarkable. SAYA has grown into the world’s largest manufacturer of post-consumer recycled performance fiber with recycling networks that repurpose over 75 billion bottles every year. Working with a network of 13 PET recycling facilities worldwide, SAYANow serves as the backbone of our sustainable textile business.

For more information about the differences between mechanical, chemical, and advanced recycling technologies, read more here. 

To learn more about SAYA’s offerings, contact change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

Surprising Products Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles

Travel apparel and items made of recycled plastic bottles
Travel apparel and items made of recycled plastic bottles

Over the past 10 years, the number of plastic bottles being recycled has increased nearly twofold, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). That’s great news, not just for the environment, but for the economy. More and more companies are remaking plastic bottles into useful new products. As recycling technology and accessibility improves, so does the innovation of new materials made from recycled bottles. This includes high-tech polyester fabrics, recycled PET, and so much more. 

According to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), producing new products from recycled PET requires two-thirds less energy than manufacturing products using new or raw materials. The process also results in less greenhouse gas emission. 

So what exactly are these plastic bottles turning into? Here are a few top products created through mechanical recycling as well as advanced recycling techniques. Some of them might surprise you. 

Toys

Toys made out of recycled plastic bottles
Toys made out of recycled plastic bottles

Some toy manufacturers like Green Toys use mechanical recycling to turn plastic bottles, milk jugs, and other post-consumer plastic waste into environmentally conscious toys. They shred and grind the plastic into smaller and smaller flakes. Then, they melt and bind them with natural dyes to create tea sets, toy trucks, stacking toys, and more. Other companies take toy recycling a step further. TerraCycle invites consumers to recycle old or broken plastic toys rather than throwing them away. 

Building materials

Decking boards made of recycled plastic bottles
Decking boards made of recycled plastic bottles

From roofing tiles and framing materials to insulation and carpeting, the construction industry is turning to recycled plastic products to fill consumers’ needs for sustainable materials. Using materials made from recycled bottles and other plastic not only helps the environment, but also offers an alternative to resources like lumber, which has been in short supply recently. Green Building Solutions recently highlighted a one-year study that shows the energy savings from using recycled plastics as a building material is “enough to meet the average annual energy needs of 4.6 million US households.” 

Health and Beauty Products

Tooth brushes made of recycled plastic bottles
Tooth brushes made of recycled plastic bottles

Your next toothbrush, razor blade, or hairbrush could be made out of recycled plastic bottles. Using a recycling takeback program, companies like Preserve are gathering post-consumer plastic bottle caps, plus dairy and dip containers through mail-in or drop-off locations. Then, through mechanical recycling techniques, they are transforming them into common household and beauty products. When you’re done with those products, you can send them back for recycling again and again. 

Athletic Wear 

Woman running in athletic apparel made of fiber from recycled plastic bottles
Woman running in athletic apparel made of fiber from recycled plastic bottles

Fibers made from recycled PET have properties that make them uniquely suited for high performance fabrics, such as athletic wear. The fiber offers stretch, moisture management, durability, and antimicrobial properties. 


SAYA recycles single use, low value, high volume plastic bottles and renews them into durable performance and functional fibers. We recycle over 100,000 tons of plastic bottles per year (equivalent to 75,000,000,000 bottles) and upcycle them into performance fibers that are durable, functional, and recyclable.

To learn more, contact: change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

What can plastic be recycled into? Uses of recycled bottle

When you recycle plastic bottles, they can gain new life in a variety of products. Think: fabrics and carpeting, toys, toothbrushes, and building materials. But that’s not the only reason consumers and corporations should be concerned about recycling plastic containers. When customers understand all the reasons why recycling plastic bottles is a good idea, they’re more likely to make recycling plastic part of their lifestyle.  

1) It’s good for business.

Consumers want more sustainable products, and they’re willing to pay more money for them, according to new surveys by Boston Consulting Group. As consumer demand for sustainable products increases, so does manufacturers’ use of bottles that can be easily recycled. Some industry reports released in 2020 indicate that major manufacturers of cleaning products, foods, and beverages are developing plans to make more of their plastic packaging recyclable. This should help keep more plastic bottles out of landfills and oceans. 

2) It benefits the planet.

What can plastic be recycled into? Uses of recycled bottle
According the the EPA consumer recycling has increased from 6% to 35% from 1960 to 2018, but only a small percentage of that is plastic or plastic bottles. Graphic from the EPA

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consumer recycling has increased from about 6 percent of total waste in 1960 to 35 percent in 2017. But only a small percentage of that recycling is plastic, about 4 to 6 percent. In fact, around the world, climate leaders are pushing to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled. Every bottle you recycle is one less piece of plastic in our landfills and oceans. It only takes a few recycled bottles to create something new, so every bit helps.

3) Recycling plastic puts an end to single-use.

Recycling plastic bottles disrupts the idea of single-use plastic by offering new and exciting products that give the plastic a second (or third or forth) iteration. This extends the life cycle and usefulness of plastic over time. 

4) It’s becoming easier to recycle plastic bottles.

One of the challenges of plastic bottle recycling is the numbering system and symbols on product packaging. Facilities sort plastics by number and use different techniques to recycle. However, as technology improves, more communities are accepting a wider range of plastic in their recycling facilities. And some retailers are offering special drop-off locations for specific types of plastics, like food wrappers and shampoo bottles. This lowers the barrier to recycling and makes it easier for consumers to understand what to do with their used bottles. 

5) Recycling plastic bottles leads to innovative new products.

Performance apparel made of recycled plastic with stretch and antibacterial enhancements
Performance apparel made of recycled plastic with stretch and antibacterial enhancements

Many of the new textiles and products created from recycled plastic bottles actually perform better than their non-recycled counterparts. For example, SAYA uses advanced bottle recycling to create SAYA Stretch which offers more stretch and recovery, durability, and moisture management. That, combined with antibacterial properties makes it a top choice for athletic and technical apparel.  

For more information about SAYA’s recycling solutions, contact change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

Recycled Plastic: How Much of the World’s Plastic is Recycled Plastic?

Recycled plastic makes up a very small percentage of plastic produced

Since the 1970s, plastic has been one of the most popular materials in the world. Plastic is used for everything from packaging to fabric to textiles. According to the United Nations Environmental Program, “more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60 percent of that plastic ended up in a landfill or the natural environment.” As a result, plastic pollution is widespread and harmful, leeching toxic chemicals into the environment and threatening wildlife and habitat. The need for recycling plastic has never been greater, yet estimates suggest that only 8% of the world’s plastic is recycled.

Discarded plastic washed up on a beach can be prevented with advanced recycling methods
Recycled plastic using mechanical or advanced recycling processes can keep polymers out of our natural environment

This low rate is due to several factors. It is currently less expensive to produce virgin plastic using fossil fuels than to recycle it. Plastic is not uniform in its composition, and some plastic is easily recycled while other types are more resource and labor intensive. Estimates on recycling rates by country are difficult to find and vary. However, experts expect to see a significant increase in global plastic recycling rates in 2021 thanks to the addition of disposable plastic to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.  This United Nations agreement regulates international transport of hazardous materials so that wealthy countries cannot dump garbage on less-developed ones.

According to an article in Science, the addition of plastics to the Basel Convention has the potential to deter the shipment of plastics from powerful countries like China and the United States to smaller and poorer countries, which could galvanize the plastic recycling industry.

While technology exists to recycle plastics, negative perceptions abound in regards to plastics recycling, according to the World Economic Forum.

However, regulatory, shareholder, and moral incentives are driving the discussion on how to increase global recycling rates in order to reduce current and prevent future plastic pollution. Specifically, world leaders are calling on financial institutions to develop new recycling markets that will have environmental and economic benefits.

Because it is cheaper and less complicated to develop new plastic instead of recycling it, The American Chemistry Council estimated that in 2018, less than 10 percent of American plastic was recycled. In that same year, American landfills received 27 million tons of plastic, representing 18.5 percent of all municipal solid waste. By contrast, both Europe and Asia have significantly higher plastic recycling rates, though specific rates vary by country.

Europe and Asia use more recycled plastic than other world regions.
Europe and Asia use more recycled plastic than other world regions.

In order to have a meaningful impact, some experts are calling for an international agreement that sets targets for “reducing plastic rubbish in the oceans,” which would galvanize worldwide plastics recycling.

Consultant John Richardson advocates for a global agreement akin to the Paris Climate Agreement for plastics that would, address the problem of plastic pollution—which results when plastics end up in landfills and the natural environment instead of being recycled and reused—“at the source.

He writes, “As the developing world gets richer, the content of plastic in the oceans can only increase unless we take urgent action. Many of the goods made from single-use plastics are lifesaving and so essential. Investments in chemicals and mechanical recycling won’t by themselves fix the problem. Waste collection and sorting systems need to be built from scratch with solutions region-specific. How do we start? With a Paris-type agreement on plastic waste, setting global binding targets for cutting plastic rubbish in the oceans. Then the regulations and incentives will follow.”

And it follows, countries will increase their recycling capability and will likely be more transparent in their plastic recycling achievements.

To share your thoughts on recycled plastic or to learn more about SAYA fiber, please contact us at change@sayarenew.com

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knowledge-base

How Textile Recycling Companies Can Become More Sustainable

Textile recycling companies aim to reduce, reuse and recycle

Reduce, reuse, recycle. This mantra has also driven myriad sustainability efforts, including in textile recycling companies. Recycling textiles is important because the industry produces billions of pounds of unused materials each year, relies on fossil fuels to make virgin plastics, and has a mandate to recycle polyester and other materials to keep them from polluting the environment. Given the diverse imperatives, it makes sense that there are many ways to recycle textiles. As a leader in the textile recycling space, SAYA has programs that reduce, reuse, and recycle. More, we believe in highlighting other successful efforts undertaken by industry partners.

Rolls of overstock fabric available for recycling by textile recycling companies
Rolls of overstock fabric available for recycling

Reduce

Reducing may present some of the biggest challenges to sustainability efforts as manufacturers work to identify processes that reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in fiber and material production.

Another option for reduction in the manufacturing process: water. The textile industry uses billions of liters of water throughout all steps, from dyeing to chemical finishes. By developing ecologically friendly dyes and creating water-free finishing, textile recycling companies have established new approaches that benefit both the environment and environmentally-aware consumers.

SAYA RSCUW Raw is material made from recycled fabric cutting scrap and PET bottles that does not bleach or re-dye the material. The resulting knit has a unique heathered effect in shades of grey to nearly black. The process also significantly improves energy efficiency and reduces the carbon footprint of recycled polyester fabric.

Reuse

Reusing clothing and cutting scraps from factory floors has grown popular within the textile industry. Zero Waste Daniel turns clothing scraps into fashion. Patagonia and The North Face have programs to recruit and refurbish used clothing and gear for resale. Eileen Fisher asks consumers to return clothing they would otherwise throw out; clothing that can be resold will be, and clothing that cannot is turned into “something entirely new” through the company’s circular by design program. Cotopaxi sews gear out of left over fabric yardage. And SAYA collects cutting room scrap and leftover yardage for our innovative recycling program.

Recycle

Recycling plastic, polyester, PET, and other man-made materials is a complex process. Recycling technical textiles relies on the use of chemicals and heat. For example, to transform plastic bottles into fabric, bottles are collected, separated into clear and colored bottles, and shredded. Next, the shredded plastic is heated and forced through tiny holes in an extruder to create long, continuous fibers. These fibers are then torn into shorter pieces. The fibers are balled (resembling wool). Next they are carded and spun into yarn.

Plastic recycling center preparing plastic for textile recycling companies
Plastic recycling center

By reducing, reusing, and recycling, the textile industry and SAYA can lower its carbon footprint, help safeguard the environment, and meet consumer demand.

To share your thoughts on how the textile industry can become more sustainable or to learn more about SAYA fiber, please contact us at change@sayarenew.com