Polartec recycles billionth PET bottle

Company has produced the equivalent of 27 million new fleece jackets using fabric made from recycled PET bottles.

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Polartec LLC, Lawrence, Massachusetts, says it has recycled its billionth PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle. The Oeko-Tex 100- and Bluesign® AG- certified company says it has been a longtime proponent of ecoconscious manufacturing techniques.

In 2014, more than 60 percent of Polartec’s domestic production used recycled yarns. These textiles are used in every fabric platform, including Polartec® Power Shield®, Power Dry®, Power Wool™, Power Grid™ and Alpha®. To put this achievement in perspective, Polartec’s billion bottles could have created approximately 27 million new fleece jackets—enough for every person living in the state of Texas—the company says.

Decades ago, recycled materials meant trade-offs in production, performance or aesthetics. That is no longer the case as major brands like Patagonia, L.L. Bean, The North Face, Arc’Teryx, Cabela’s, Eastern Mountain Sports, Carhartt and Eddie Bauer incorporate Polartec’s recycled fabrics into their garments, the company says. These global companies use Polartec fabrics for everything from base layers to outer protection wear.

“We knew that recycled textiles could not sacrifice performance if they were to gain widespread adoption from global brands,” says Polartec CEO Gary Smith. “It was another seemingly impossible challenge that we solved. Now, our recycled fabrics are winning awards alongside our virgin textiles.”

He continues, “A billion bottles is a good start, but we feel there is still ample opportunity for innovation, and we look forward to helping our brands create eco-conscious garments for many years to come.”

Polartec is able to make high-quality fleece using postconsumer recycling content through a partnership with Unifi Inc. The companies developed Repreve 100, a yarn using 100 percent clear plastic bottles that is identical in terms of quality from fabrics using virgin polyester, Polartec says. Repreve 100 is offered in a large variety of colors and styles to fit the demands of any brand looking to incorporate an ecofriendly element into their garments.

Polartec says its commitment to serving the environment does not begin and end with its textiles. The company has made major infrastructure and process changes within its manufacturing plants to limit its environmental impact. Polartec’s electricity consumption has been reduced by 24 percent since 2009, the company recycles 85 percent of production water and its global hang tag program uses reduced-sized recycled tags to limit paper consumption.