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Name: James
Status: student
Grade: other
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: United Kingdom

I have noticed that some clothes shops now offer clothing made from polyester which has come from recycled plastic bottles. What is the process involved in turning plastic bottles into polyester?

Hi James,

Polyester bottles (polyester's correct name is Polyethylene Terephthalate) have the advantage of being an easily recognized source this material, that is pure and has no other plastics added that would complicate attempts to recycle it.

The process to reuse the polyester is quite simple. The bottles are chopped up into small pieces, then fed to an extruder where they are heated to their melting point and "squirted" (like toothpaste from a tube) into long spaghetti-like strands, that are then chopped into short pellets and stored for later use. The recycled polyester is now in exactly the same form as so-called "virgin" polyester purchased from a plastic resin manufacturer, and therefore can be used to make polyester fiber (or any other polyester plastic part) that "virgin" polyester would be used to make.

To make clothing, the polyester pellets (whether brand new "virgin" pellets, or those made from recycled bottles) are heated to their melting point and forced under great pressure through tiny nozzles to make many fine fibers. The fibers are then made woven into fabric, and the fabric made into clothing in the usual manner.

Bob Wilson

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