Recycled Polyester Yarns | 4 MIN READ

As one of the leading producers of recycled industrial polyester yarns, our customers often seek sustainable alternatives and are curious of the benefits of using such materials for their products. As a company that prides itself on educating its customers fully, this article addresses these benefits as well as describes the process of how it is created.

Recycled industrial polyester (rPET), commonly made from recycled plastic bottles or other post-consumer polyester products, provides a sustainable alternative to virgin (first-time produced) polyester. Hailide America processes rPET by sorting used polyester items through its supplier, breaking them down into small chips that can be spun into new yarns for various industrial polyester yarn applications.

What are the benefits of using recycled polyester yarn

What Are the Benefits of Recycled Polyester?

    • Environmental Impact:  Reduces the need for new, petroleum-based polyester polymer, conserving natural resources and reducing waste sent to landfills.

    • Carbon Neutrality Initiatives:  The EU & USA target carbon neutrality by 2050 and China by 2060. Converting to rPET from virgin PET is one way that industrial manufacturers can align with regional and global carbon neutrality targets.  

    • Waste Reduction:  Diverts plastic waste from landfills and the environment, contributing to a circular economy.

    • Performance:  rPET can be used in the manufacture of textiles, automotive parts, packaging, and other industrial products with little change in performance compared to virgin PET

How Can Recycled Polyester Be Used?

    • Textiles:  Used in the production of clothing, home textiles and industrial applications.

    • Non-Woven Materials:  Utilized in the manufacture of filters, insulation, and geotextiles.

    • Packaging:  Employed in the creation of bottles, containers, and thermoformed packaging.

How Do You Make Recycled Polyester?

Currently there are two primary methods to recycle post-consumer PET waste and one method to produce PET with bio-based sources.

Physically Recycled rPET Chip:

Physically recycled PET chip is produced by collecting post-consumer plastic bottles.  They are then crushed, cleaned, and broken down into small particles called “flake”.  The flake is then melted and pelletized into rPET chip, available for extrusion into yarn, film, or other products.  Final extruded products can be produced using 100% rPET or blended with virgin PET depending on the application and product requirements.

Chemically Recycled rPET Chip:

Chemically recycled chip is produced by collecting post-consumer polyester products, which can include apparel, films, bottles, and any other type of product produced with polyester.  The waste is dissolved utilizing an alcoholysis purification process where essentially, the polymer is broken down into individual monomers and re-polymerized.

This process is much more intensive and costly than the physical PET recycling process but produces a higher quality rPET chip.  Theoretically, this process has an infinite recycle loop unlike physically recycled rPET which has a finite loop due to polymer degradation.

Bio-Based PET Chip:

Virgin polyester used in industrial PET yarn applications is typically produced by polymerizing Purified Terephthalic Acid (PTA) with Mono-Ethylene Glycol (MEG), which are both petroleum by-products.  A Bio-Based PET chip has been developed using a Bioethanol derived Ethylene Glycol (Bio EG) to replace the MEG. The Bio EG can be sourced from naturally occurring sugar alcohols from common crops like corn.

A limiting factor of the industrial PET yarn produced using the bio-based PET chip currently available in the market is that it is only 30% sustainable. As of now, there are no commercially available bio-based sources for PTA and this is still derived from petroleum. Additionally, there is criticism around the production of crop-derived bioethanol as having unintentional effects of reducing food production capacity on a global scale.

The Future of Recycled Polyester Yarns

Recycled Polyester: Trends, Challenges, & Future

While most markets have yet to adopt the usage of sustainable replacements for virgin PET, Hailide remains at the forefront of global trends shifting to more sustainable alternatives, such as rPET, over the next 10 to 20 years. Current hurdles preventing immediate conversion are sourcing rPET chip availability, limited goals achieved by bio-based PET chips – not as effective as rPET at limiting greenhouse gases – and significant price increases for all sustainable alternatives – but Hailide understands the value of developing these technologies and supports the growing demand for our customers and their respective markets.

Anticipating shifting trends, Hailide’s research and development team leverages significant resources to flagship new sustainable yarn production technologies – exemplified through the development of sustainable rPET and bio-based alternatives to our current virgin polyester offerings of high tenacity yarns (HT), low shrink yarns (LS), and high modulus low shrinkage (HMLS) industrial yarns.

This article gave a high-level view of the recycled industrial polyester process, its benefits, and the applications of its use, but if you would like to learn even more about this sustainable alternative, please reach out to us for a deeper conversation.