What is Polyester?

September 23, 2021

The Fabric Made From Plastic

Polyester is a man-made fabric. It is made out of the plastic ‘polyethylene terephthalate’, or PET for short. This is the same plastic you see on all products that use the plastic symbol 1. Polyester can either be made from virgin or recycled materials.

The reason polyester is so popular is that it’s machine washable, does not fade, is cheap to produce and durable. It also has sweat-wicking properties, meaning it is great for use in activewear and insulative fabrics. The downside of polyester is that it will stain with oil easily and can actually make you sweat more.

How It’s Made

Polyester starts the same as any other plastic product, this is in pellet form. These pellets are heated up and extruded into strips. The strings get separated, fluffed, and woven into threads for clothing and other polyester materials. For a more in-depth look, check out this how it’s made video:

Recycling Polyester

Polyester is made from PET, which is the most recycled plastic material. Normally found in plastic water bottles, this material is recycled at around a 30% rate, opposed to all other plastics which are around 5%.

Unfortunately for polyester, there is currently no way to mass recycle it and much of it is burned or ends up in landfills. 

Polyester also creates a large amount of the world’s microplastics. Every time you wash polyester, fibers end up in the water. That water ends in our drinking water, our oceans and even the food we eat. In washing alone, polyester garments release up to 500000 tons of microfibers into the ocean a year. This would be equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles.

Furthermore, the fast fashion industry is responsible for the majority of polyester produced and accounts for 10% of all global emissions. This is why around 85% of all textiles end up in the dump every year. 

How To Use Polyester

A large benefit of polyester is its lifespan. When taken care of, polyester can last a long time. It is important to buy high-quality products that you will use for a long time.

Buying low-cost, low-quality clothing from these large clothing retailers will only promote their production and waste methods, only leading to more emissions and more microplastics.  

If used correctly, plastics can be a healthy and sustainable part of your life. Voting with your wallet and avoiding wasteful products can go a long way.