From Plastic to Fabric: How Plastic Water Bottles Are Upcycled

The movement of upcycling waste material into something more useful is happening left and right. This is especially true of recycled plastic, whose lifespan is being extended with new and elegant solutions.

One of the forerunners in converting plastic waste into fibres and resin is Unifi. Their Repreve line of performance fabrics are produced with 100% recycled materials – this includes both pre-consumer plastic waste and post-consumer plastic bottles.

Essentially, they take the plastic waste that would normally end up in landfills/oceans and process it into fibre and resin, which is then put back into our hands in the form of clothing and accessories.

Started in 2007, Repreve is easily one of the most recognized and trusted sustainable problem solvers in the textile industry. What is more, compared to making virgin fibres, Repreve offsets the use of new petroleum, emits fewer greenhouse gasses, and conserves water and energy in the process, and they’ve done it with transparency and certifications.

How Repreve fabrics are made:

  1. Source Recycled Waste: Recycled plastic bottles and post-industrial waste (including their own) are collected worldwide.
  2. Make the Chip: Waste material is chopped, ground, washed, melted and reformulated into high-quality Repreve chip.
  3. Form the Fiber: Chip is melted into liquid polymer and extruded through tiny openings in a spinneret, creating continuous filaments that form Repreve fiber.
  4. Process the Yarn: Fiber becomes yarn through spinning and air-jet texturing.
  5. Ship to Customers: Finished yarn goes into fabricsmaking everyday products more sustainable.

Source: Unifi

To put the end result into perspective, some of the products made with recycled plastic fibres include general apparel (shirts/pants/socks), accessories (wallets/pouches/bags), car seats, steering wheels, curtains, as well as carpets, amongst others.

Conclusion

Sustainability is here to stay. With the help of increasing consumer awareness, companies are beginning to embrace upcycled materials. We will definitely see more products made from these creative solutions, for the future is circular.  

For those interested, other companies to look out for in this area include Oceanworks and Waste2Wear.

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