Recycled materials: How to make clothes from recycled materials?


The process to make clothes from recycled materials is thankfully industrialized which means there are plastic recycling plants with processes that can convert post-consumer products into the pellets used to fabricate all kinds of plastic products we use every day. In this article, we will discuss the process to make recycled polyester and polyamide, both of which are ideal fabrics for sporting apparel.

In the particular case of activewear, it is usually necessary to blend the primarily recycled fabrics with a secondary fabric that will perform well during workout activities. Oftentimes, lycra is used as a secondary fiber to make activewear more durable, elastic, and able to retain its shape over time. At Running Republic, all of our clothing contains at least 84% recycled materials, and the remaining 16% is made out of lycra.

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How plastic bottles are recycled into polyester?

According to Reuters, it is estimated that almost 1 million plastic bottles are used every minute. The need for recycling plants and avoiding the use of plastic bottles becomes clear if we sit down and think about this huge number. Here is how plastic bottles are recycled into polyester thread useful for clothing:

To make the thread needed for clothing, recycling plants take collected bottles and cut them up into small pieces. This part of the process helps release any substance or dirt trapped in the recycled materials so that it doesn’t affect the final quality of the plastic. Then, a sorting process separates the colored plastics from the clear plastic which can be dyed or made into white apparel. The following steps separate the bottle caps and stickers through a series of baths including a caustic soda bath. The resulting material is a clear plastic shred that goes into an oven to remove excess moisture. When the shred is completely dried out, the plastic bits are heated and melted to make a thread that can be turned into fabric.

How fishing nets are recycled into nylon-polyamide?

The Running Republic produces its polyamide activewear using Econyl a 100% regenerated nylon fabric by Aquafil, a leading manufacturer of nylon who claims recycling can be done indefinitely.  The thread is made mainly out of discarded fishing nets and carpets. So we can gain some perspective, it is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear year is lost in our oceans every year. Here is how to turn discarded fishing nets and carpets into nylon:

  • Similar to polyester, the process starts by separating the nylon from other waste and shredding it.
  • Then, the nylon goes through a depolymerization process to break it down into its building blocks.
  • The nylon is then polymerized into new high-grade nylon that is turned into pellets used as raw material for different products.

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