What's the hot new fabric? Old plastic Recycled fibers
Nice tire you've got on there. Love those old pop bottles. How did you ever find them in your color?
Clothing made from recycled materials has begun to weave its way into American life -sometimes without people even realizing it.
Next time you snuggle up in a fleece jacket, you could be cuddling up with a couple of dozen old soda bottles. That's because synthetic fleece is made from polyester, and polyester is spun plastic.
Recycling protects natural resources and saves space in landfills and money. In 2000, Nebraskans saved $10 million in landfill fees by diverting recyclables from the state's landfills, according to the Nebraska State Recycling Association. Some 439,000 tons of paper, metal, glass and plastic were recycled.
Wednesday, the association sponsored a fashion show, "From Plastic to Fantastic," in Lincoln to call attention to the annual America Recycles Day, which is Nov. 15. Some of the clothes were made from recycled products, such as plastic bottles, tires and aluminum. Others were made from "sustainable" fabrics such as hemp and organic cotton.
Some of the clothes modeled at the fashion show weren't really designed for everyday wear. University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student Susan Kesler-Simpson provided several outfits that she had designed as part of a university course that required her to make clothing from something unusual. She used plastic and paper grocery bags as the basis for the outfits.
"I've always had issues with the bags hanging in trees," she said. "It just fries me that people won't recycle. My concept for class was to take something we would throw into the landfill and make something wearable - there are alternatives to letting your garbage fly around the neighborhood."
The state organization continues to look for ways to promote recycling because the practice has not kept pace with the explosive growth in disposable consumer goods, said Kay Stevens, executive director. Nebraskans are recycling just a portion of what they could be doing.
But recycling is not just about putting bottles out on the curb, Stevens said.
"People need to buy these products," she said of items made from recycled materials. "That's how we're going to grow the market for recyclables."
In 2001, 35 percent of plastic soft drink bottles were recycled, according to the American Plastics Council. The bulk of that was spun into fibers for carpets, clothing and other textiles.
Some manufacturers will list the recycled content on their labels, while others do not. The largest manufacturer of cloth from old plastic bottles is Wellman Inc., which markets its recycled fleece as Fortrel EcoSpun. Companies such as Patagonia sell vests and jackets made from EcoSpun.
Overall, about 22 percent of the type of plastic bottle that can be converted into polyester is recycled, said Judith Dunbar, with the American Plastics Council. Manufacturers have the capacity to process about 35 percent more than they do now, if people would recycle their bottles rather than pitching them.
Because polyester is petroleum-based, making clothing from recycled polyester cuts down on the consumption of raw materials. Wellman estimates that it has the capacity to save about 500,000 barrels of oil a year by recycling almost 3 billion plastic bottles.
Some examples of recycled clothing:
Shoes. Surgical gloves can be mixed with cardboard and hemp to make the upper part of soles, while old tires can be recycled into soles.
Fleece jackets. About 25 two-liter plastic pop bottles can be used to make one fleece pullover. About 15 will produce a fleece vest.
T-shirts. Pop bottles can be recycled into a smoother polyester for use in T-shirts and other clothes.
Yiqi Yang, professor of textiles at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, said polyester is the most commonly recycled fabric.
Sustainable clothing is that made from plants with an eye toward having the least impact on the environment. Traditional cotton fields use significant amounts of chemicals. Organic cotton uses significantly less.
Some of the clothes in Wednesday's show were made from hemp, one of the oldest materials known to humans.
Hemp is more durable than cotton and requires less pesticides. Cultivating hemp is banned in the United States, so clothes sold here are made from hemp grown elsewhere.
Nebraska is home to one of the latest innovations in making clothing from renewable sources. Cargill Inc. is making a corn- based plastic that can be turned into fabric.
How can synthetic fleece be made from pop bottles?
Fleece is made of polyester, a petroleum-based synthetic that can be spun into fibers or molded into plastic.
The bottles are separated by color, sterilized and then crushed, chopped and melted.
The melted plastic is extruded through a shower-head type device, producing fibrous polyester strands. Those strands are stretched to thin out and strengthen them.
The strands are woven into fleece or other materials, such as T- shirts and sweatshirts.
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Source: Omaha World - Herald
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