PNSF Case Study Topic Area: Problem Area Targeted: Date:
Business Initiatives for Products Derived From Recycled Plastic Plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) August 2011
DGrade Clothing www.dgradeclothing.com
Why? Plastic drinking bottles are made from the plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). PET is not biodegradable. Plastic packaging, such as plastic bottles, makes up 30% of the worldâ€™s consumption of PET and PET is the third most used plastic type (behind polyethylene (PE) and polypropene (PP)). PET is the most recycled plastic type in the world, and is fully recyclable. The process of recycling PET uses 50% less energy, 20% less water, and produces 50% less CO2 emissions than producing new PET. Business and Economic Rationale Packaging made from PET can be recycled into PET fiber, also known as polyester, which can be used to make carpets and clothing. Cotton prices have almost tripled in the last ten years, bringing the cost of recycled PET fiber into line with the price of cotton:
Price of Cotton (US cents per Pound) Source: http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=cotton&months=120
Using recycled plastic to make fabric also has the benefit that less cotton needs to be grown to produce yarn. Water and land resources can be used to grow food instead. How does it work? In 1988 the American Society of the Plastic Industry developed the resin identification code, which helps recycling companies identify the type of plastic which has been used to make a product. PET has the recycling number 1 and the unicode U+2673. PET products are therefore usually stamped with one of the following symbols:
Products for recycling are first taken to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The PET is segregated from other plastics and recyclable material with the help of the resin identification code above. PET is also usually sorted according to the colour of the plastic, with clear and blue plastics being the preferred colours for recycling companies. Once the plastic has been washed, crushed and baled, recycling companies buy bales of the crushed PET and then shred the plastic into flakes. Paper labels and cap fragments are then segregated out of the PET flakes. The PET flakes can then be melted down and spun into polyester for use in clothing. DGrade Clothing DGrade is an end user of the polyester which is produced after PET has been recycled. DGrade manufactures clothing knitted or woven from between 50% - 100% polyester yarn, sometimes using a cotton â€“ polyester mix in their fabrics.
Their t-shirts are made 50% from cotton and 50% from recycled PET fiber, and therefore use the equivalent of three post consumer plastic bottles. Their shorts are made 100% from recycled PET fiber and use up thirty bottles. Jackets are also made 100% from recycled PET fiber and use up sixty bottles.
Sources: DGrade Clothing www.dgradeclothing.com 5Gyres www.5gyres.com Petcore www.petcore.org Royal Society Publishing Theme Issue 'Plastics, the environment and human health' compiled by R. C. Thompson, C. J. Moore, F. S. vom Saal and S. H. Swan July 27, 2009; 364 (1526) http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1526.toc