The polyester fiber has made a name for itself as a miracle material of the 1970s that you can "wear for 68 days without ironing". The days of brightly colored training overalls and shimmering suits are (fortunately) over, but the popularity of polyester fabric is increasing again due to ongoing trends such as “athleisure”. According to the environmental organization Greenpeace, 60% of garments worldwide are made from synthetic fibers. But what exactly makes a synthetic fiber artificial and what distinguishes it from natural fibers?
What is polyester?
Anyone who thinks that polyester is the same as polyester is wrong. Polyester is a generic term for a wide variety of synthetic fibers. PET is often used for textiles, a plastic that you may also know from plastic bottles from the supermarket.
Using the melt spinning process, the crude oil-based polyester granulate is first liquefied and then passed through a cold air shaft. The drop in temperature enables the material to harden and be spun in fiber form. The shape of the spinneret determines the fineness, shine and feel of the fiber. In contrast to natural fibers, the chemically produced fibers are infinitely long and therefore particularly elastic.
The advantages of polyester
Due to its special ease of care and its high resistance, the polyester fiber has long been considered a miracle material. But the chemical fiber has even more to offer:
- Despite its great robustness, the fiber is very light
- The fibers can be easily dyed and impress with their rich colors
- Garments made of polyester keep their shape even after being worn a lot
- Quick drying and therefore often used for outdoor or sportswear
- In contrast to cotton, polyester only has a low absorbency. Sweat is therefore automatically directed to the outside. There is no waterlogging inside the sportswear, which can cause an unpleasant chill after exercise or even with smaller gusts of wind.
The disadvantages of man-made fibers:
Like many other materials used in the fashion industry, polyester also has its downsides. Above all, the poor ecological balance of man-made fibers is justifiably criticized.
- Consumption of finite resources: 100 million barrels of crude oil are used every year to manufacture polyester. Of this, 70% goes into the production of synthetic fibers in the textile industry
- High energy consumption in production
- Poor biodegradability. Man-made fibers are particularly resistant. However, this also has the disadvantage that clothing made of polyester takes several hundred years to rot.
- Increased release of microplastics. The finest plastic particles can come off during washing. These get into our environment via the sewage and pollute our soil and water.
Recycled polyester: the solution to all problems?
We are aware of the problems associated with the use of man-made fibers and try to avoid their use as much as possible. Especially in the sports and functional area, natural alternatives with the same properties are still very difficult to find.
We are already working on the development of a collection made of vegetable polyester. In the meantime, we use high quality, 100% recycled polyester for the production of our OGNX sportswear. Here you can find out what makes recycled polyester different from the new.
What is recycled polyester and how is it obtained?
The use of "ocean plastic" for the manufacture of individual products has meanwhile become common practice for many sporting goods manufacturers and is marketed accordingly in the media. In addition to recycled plastic containers and bottles, which receive a lot of public attention, a large part of the recycled fibers comes from post-industrial waste, which includes, for example, production residues or components from overproduction. OGNX has been using the recycled fibers to manufacture our functional clothing for many years. The reuse of all raw materials and the enabling of a continuous circular economy is a fundamental pillar of our corporate philosophy and by no means just a media-effective marketing measure.
There are two ways to recycle PET: mechanically and chemically.
- In mechanical recycling, the PET is shredded, washed and fused into a polyester chip. This is then hardened and spun into new fibers
- The chemical recycling process is a little more complex and therefore more expensive. Here the plastic waste is returned to its original monomers (continuous fibers) and cannot then be distinguished from new polyester. To produce the fiber, the monomers go through the original fiber production process.
Advantages and disadvantages of recycled polyester
Recycled polyester also has disadvantages. In principle, however, the manufacturing process is much more energy-efficient than the production of new fibers.
By recycling the polyester fiber, it is given a second life and does not end up in the garbage
Only pure fibers can be recycled. The separation of mixed fibers is very complex and is therefore not used
The quality of the polyester fiber remains largely unchanged. This makes recycled fibers almost as durable as new fibers
The plastics to be recycled are separated by color. However, the individual nuances can vary greatly, so that chlorine bleach must be used to balance the color quality.
59% fewer resources are used during the recycling process.
Even after repeated recycling, the fiber continues to give off microplastics
The chemical fiber (PET) impresses with its high resistance and ease of care. T-shirts, jackets, bras and pants made of polyester wick away moisture, dry very quickly and are usually light. These advantages make the chemical fiber almost indispensable for the sports industry. By recycling plastic waste or industrial residues, energy can be saved in production and old, unusable polyester fibers can be given a second life. Many of the aspects that criticize man-made fibers, especially from an ecological point of view, can be reduced or even avoided entirely.
Only high-quality and chemical-free rPES is used to use the OGNX sports collection. The long-term goal is also to reduce this and to switch entirely to continuous plant fibers.
TIP: More and more manufacturers are offering special, fine-mesh laundry bags on the Internet that prevent the release of microplastics.