Polyester has become a household name these days. More than half of retail apparel sold worldwide contains polyester. It is used in everything from sportswear to couture, but like any material, it has its pros and cons. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about it.
What Is Polyester Fabric?
Polyester is a man-made synthetic fibre or woven fabric. It is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is obtained by mixing terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. It is a type of plastic usually obtained from petroleum. There are alternatives to petroleum-based polyesters, such as those made from recycled plastics, crops, or waste.
How Is Polyester Fabric Made?
The production of polyester involves several stages.
- Monomers production
The process of making polyester fibre begins with the reaction of ethylene glycol and dimethyl terephthalate at high temperatures. As a result of this reaction, a monomer is formed.
- Polymer generation
The monomer is then reacted again with dimethyl terephthalate to form the polymer.
The polyester polymer melt is extruded into long strips in a reaction chamber, cooled, dried and broken into small pieces.
The resulting chips are re-melted to produce a honey-like substance, which is extruded through spinnerets into fibres.
The resulting polyester filaments are either cut or treated with a variety of chemicals to achieve the desired result. The manufacturing process may vary depending on the type of polyester required.
What Are The Properties Of Polyester Fabric?
- Polyester is very strong and durable so it won’t tear or pill easily.
- A naturally bright fibre that can be easily modified for a variety of applications. The fibres are dyed easily.
- Stain resistant so easy to care for and ideal for cleaning at home.
- It is a popular and quick drying fabric for outerwear. Polyester is hydrophobic so it doesn’t absorb sweat or other liquids, making it moist and sticky and less breathable for the wearer. It has a low level of wicking.
- It can be rough or slippery and silky to touch depending upon its finishing.
- Generally non-biodegradable.
- Prone to static build-up.
What Are The Available Certifications For Polyester Fabric?
Polyester fabric is eligible for various certifications. The Global Recycled Standard and Recycled Claim Standard are international certifications for products containing recycled materials. Both certifications aim to increase the use of recycled materials.
OEKO-TEX is another certification with an independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished and finished textiles at all stages of processing. Harmful substances testing includes:
- Substances prohibited and controlled by law
- Substances known to be hazardous (but not controlled)
- Health protection parameters
Other organizations such as Intertek also certify recycled PET fabrics. As a synthetic fabric, polyester does not qualify for any organic certification. Polyester in its plant-based form also undergoes extensive chemical production processes, so the organic status of the original plant material is irrelevant.
How Does Polyester Fabric Impact The Planet?
Polyester often has a negative impact on the environment. The main material used to produce polyester are already limited fossil fuels, which are also used for energy and plastic manufacturing. During the processing of crude oil into petroleum, various toxins enter the environment and can harm water and life on land. After refineries produce petroleum, additional refining processes are required to produce ethylene, which is used to make polyester. This extraction process is wasteful and polluting. We are currently consuming oil much faster than nature can produce. Some projections suggest that oil production could peak by 2030.
Consumers inevitably throw away polyester clothing, which, unlike biodegradable fibres, does not degrade naturally in the environment. It can take centuries to fully decompose due to natural environmental conditions.
What Are The Better Alternatives For Polyester Fabric?
Despite the rise in the use of polyester, sustainable, biodegradable, or recycled fibres are a better option for the environment as well as the entire community involved in the textile industry. Eco-friendly fabric options are plentiful and their impact is huge and relevant.
- Recycled polyester- It significantly reduces air pollution. Mainly used for carpets, blankets and clothing. Some brands that make recycled polyester include Bionic, Econyl and EcoAlf.
- Bio Polyester- Produced from renewable sources such as crops or biological waste instead of PET. Bioplastics are a more sustainable option than pure polyester.