How is recycled polyester made from bottles?

Did you know that just in the UK alone, we use 7.7 billion plastic bottles per year and we dispose of enough plastic to circle the world 5 times over? How scary is that? 

Now, more than ever, it is important for us to find new ways of recycling or reusing plastic so that there is less harmful environmental impact on the planet. Thanks to new technology, we can now recycle more plastic bottles than ever before.

So, how is it done?

Once the plastic bottles have reached a local recycling centre, they go through what is called a 'shredding process'. The shredding process is an important as this breaks down the plastic and gets rid of any moisture that may still be existent. Once this is done, they are sent to a factory where they can be cleaned thoroughly and dried.

Once the bags of shredded plastic flecks have reached the factories, they are sorted by colour. Clear see-through bottles are ideal as they produce crisp white thread, which can be dyed in all sorts of different colours. This can be a tedious process, as it is important to source any hard plastics such as bottle caps, which are taken out of the pile. Once sorted, the plastic goes through a chemical cleansing wash and is dried for up to 10 hours.

After all that it's ready, right?

gumbies recycled plastic bottles gumbies recycled plastic flecks
Unfortunately at this point, no. These will still be solid flecks that would be impossible to put into clothing garments, so now these need to be melted down so that they are liquified. Once they are melted, the molten plastic flows through the pipes and out of the tiny holes to product threads so thin that they are almost microscopic!

We must be near the finish line?!

We're nearly there....BUT, bearing in mind at this stage this is still a raw substance that still isn't appropriate for putting into clothing garments just yet. The plastic threads are now rapidly torn into fluff, which eventually gets strengthened into the super-soft polyester thread. This process is much similar to the production of cotton.

Phew! We got there in the end. Now, this polyester thread is ready to go into clothing garments such as our Gumbies products;

Outback Slipper - each pair using 8 recycled plastic bottles for a super-warm and soft upper.

Duckbill Flip-flops - We’ve used rPET – recycled post-consumer plastic bottles for the Duckbill straps and the toe post.

Walkabout Trainers - EarthLoop™ recycled laces made from post-consumer plastics. 1 bottle = 1 set of laces!

So there you have it! Next time you recycle your plastic bottles, you'll now know where they go and why it's great for us all to do our bit for the planet.