Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)* is one of the most commercially significant polymers in the global materials economy. People are most familiar with their daily use of PET for rigid containers such as beverage bottles, pre-washed salad tubs, deli take-out containers, etc. Use of PET for various packaging applications has increased dramatically in the last 20 years, and compared to other commonly used resins it has a fairly robust collection and recycling infrastructure as well as established end markets to purchase recycled resin.
But consumers also use PET in numerous other ways that may be less familiar to them, such as sportswear and fashion apparel; automotive interiors; textiles for office, home, hotel and hospital furnishings; carpets; insulation; and tires. In fact, the volume of PET flowing through the global economy is much greater for the production of fibers, yarns, and woven and non-woven fabrics than it is for packaging, films and other rigid applications.
However, despite the ubiquity and importance of PET textiles in the global economy, most of the goods produced eventually are incinerated or end up in landfills due to the lack of an infrastructure for keeping them in circulation to create materials for future products.
GreenBlue conducted research to explore how we might create a more effective infrastructure for collecting and recycling PET textiles. This report examines the opportunities and challenges of recycling pre and post-consumer PET textiles in the context of four industry sectors: apparel, contract textiles, carpet, and contract office furniture.