How sustainable is recycled polyester?

Author: Marjorie van Elven from FashionUnited

About 49 percent of the world’s clothing is made of polyester and Greenpeace forecasts this percentage to nearly double by 2030, since the athleisure trend has led a growing number of consumers to be interested in stretchier, more resistant garments. But polyester is not a sustainable textile option, as it is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common type of plastic in the world. In short, the majority of our clothes come from crude oil, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is calling for drastic actions to keep the world’s temperature to a maximum of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. 

One year ago, non-profit organization Textile Exchange challenged over 50 textile, apparel and retail companies (including giants like Adidas, H&M, Gap and Ikea) to increase their use of recycled polyester by 25 percent by 2020. Last month, the organization issued a statement celebrating that signatories have not only met the goal two years before the deadline, but actually exceeded it by upping their use of recycled polyester by 36 percent. In addition, twelve more companies have pledged to join the challenge this year. The organization forecasts 20 percent of all polyester to be recycled by 2030.