Plastic Bottle Recycling Turns Waste Into High Fashion
Did you know that some plastics can be recycled into clothing by the plastic bottle recycling process? In fact, it’s a growing industry with a number of manufacturers producing some stunning attire while helping to protect the environment at the same time.
The first step in the bottle recycling process is the shredding. This not only removes any liquid residue but produces the strips that can be wrapped in cellophane, boxed and shipped to the clothing manufacturer.
This scrap has a lot of value for many in the textile industry. At the factory, the clear scrap is separated from the colors. The clear material can be made into white clothes or material that is easily dyed.
The colored bottle scrap has labels and bottle caps which are separated in an bath immersion process. The caps are made from a different plastic material and are removed by the workers when they rise to the top. Stickers are removed in an additional bath process using corrosive caustic soda.
The remainder of the scrap from the bottle recycling process is now clean, but still wet. It is placed in an oven where it is mixed with some different light plastic filament for strengthening. This facilitates the creation of pellets and flakes used in the final stages of the manufacturing process.
Another step is needed to make the actual cloth. Here the mixture is passed through a rotating screw where its is heated to 518 degrees Fahrenheit. This melts the plastic and it is pushed through a sieve that is molded to produce long, plastic strings that are collected in a container below.
The threads are not quite strong enough to produce cloth at this stage. First it must be stretched and combined several times while being heated. This will bind the fibers together. Now that the material has been blended together, the next step is to separate it all over again. The fluff that is produced is the building block to make polyester, but it must be shipped to another factory to complete the process.
While the material looks like cotton or wool, it is essentially man-made scrap from the plastic bottle recycling process and in the polyester factory the material is refined into a rough cloth that needs to be “carded.” In this instance, carding means bonding the material together into sheets so that the strands are all interlocked in the same direction. This further strengthens the material.
These sheets are now ready to be developed into threads. The various sheets are now fastened to bobbins on a collection of spinning machines that produces the polyester cloth. After a mechanized smoothing process the material is ready for shipment.
Thanks to the plastic bottle recycling process what was once regarded as waste has now been collected, sorted, shredded and turned into cloth that ultimately becomes fine fashion from companies like Unifi, Royal Apparel and Patagonia.