Polyester is one of the most popular fabrics on the market, it is found in clothing, furniture, packaging etc. It is the most widely used synthetic fiber in fashion.
It is inexpensive and very versatile . Its properties make it very attractive for clothing brands: it is soft, durable over time, resists shrinkage, easy to maintain and dries quickly. It's the Swiss army knife of fabric!
This material was discovered in the 1940s by British chemists, it then appeared on the French market in the 1950s with the Tergal brand, then popularized in the 1970s. It is obtained by polymerization using ethylene glycol and to terephthalate.
Ecological and health impact
Polyester requires a fossil fuel to be created: oil . During manufacture, it takes 1.5 kg of oil to make 1 kg of polyester. It is a material that is harmful to the planet because not only are the oil deposits running out, but they are also polluting because they produce greenhouse gases.
Polyester also pollutes water. With each wash, plastic microparticles break off and wash into the pipes, then pollute the oceans. They are found later in the water that we drink and which is absorbed by our body.
This year marks a historic discovery: the discovery of microparticles in placentas, small enough to circulate in the blood. Their color was red, yellow, orange, and blue, which means that they come from packaging, paint, clothing...
But these particles are also found in the metabolism of fish, which contributes to destroying the ecosystem.
This material contains endocrine disruptors and carcinogens that harm our health. Consuming healthier means choosing healthy materials for us but also for our children, because endocrine disruptors affect them enormously! In addition to this, because of its composition, polyester therefore harms the health of workers who handle these substances all day long.
In addition, its manufacture is energy-intensive in terms of water and energy and releases polluting chemical substances into the air, such as sodium bromide or titanium dioxide.
Are there solutions?
Polyester can be recycled chemically or mechanically. As always, mechanical recycling is more desirable because it is less energy intensive.
Recycled polyester comes from recycling plastic products like water bottles. It is created by depolymerizing the fibers and then repolymerizing them into a yarn and then a fabric. But that does not prevent it from releasing microparticles. Even if recycled polyester is greener than simple polyester, it is much less so than natural materials. Since the material remains the same, it will therefore remain harmful to health.
Some brands offer bio-based polyester , which would be a polymerization from natural material. For example, from sugar cane and corn. With this process, we avoid using fossil fuels and we keep all the properties and performance of the fabric!
We hope this article has helped you see more clearly about this very common fabric.