Often written off as a nasty by-product of the petro-chemical industry that is unsustainable and ecologically damaging, polyester has its fair share of detractors. At Materialised, we take our responsibility to care for our planet very seriously, so why do we specialised in polyester use? The facts might surprise you…
A happy accident, polyester was discovered by chemist Wallace Hume Carothers in the 40s while experimenting with synthetic fibres for well-known US-based chemical company DuPont.
In the height of its popularity in the 60s and 70s, polyester defined the fashion of an era. Skin-tight disco shirts and spray-on skivvies were (unfortunately) made possible because of the stretchy, wrinkle-free properties of polyester.
Quickly making the transition from fashion into areas as diverse as textile, carpets, seat covers and even bed linen, polyester was a favourite among manufacturers because of the ease with which it can be blended with other fabrics to improve performance, including durability and flame retardancy.
There are a few ways that polyester can be manufactured, mostly involving the base element of crude oil. In simple terms, the process involves elongating a single molecule into a chain of molecules via chemical reaction. The resulting chain is then raised to a high temperature, formed into long ribbons, cooled, dried and then melted again before being spun into thread.
Production processes have evolved since the 40s and now polyester can be manufactured from PET bottles, old polyester products and even natural gas, making it potentially greener than the natural fibre equivalent because it takes fewer resources, including energy and water to producing it.
For example, at first glance it might seem that cotton is ‘greener’ than polyester, however cotton has high eco-costs when it comes to the amount of water and insecticides needed to grow it, and the added impacts of dying and printing after it’s woven.
However, fire retardant polyester lasts more than three times as long as a comparable topically-treated fire retardant cotton and costs 36 per cent less to produce.
As far as printing goes we use a system called dye sublimation, or air dying, which requires no water unlike similar processes used to print or dye natural fibres.
In our industry, one of the greenest things we can do is make absolutely sure the most appropriate textile is selected to maximise durability and performance. Therefore negating the need for premature replacement and the associated waste of material and labour.
We know that everything we do impacts on the planet, so at Materialised we strive to make sure that our materials, processes, recycling policies and even the advise we give our clientele, results in the smallest possible ecological footprint.
So, in a nutshell, that’s why we’ve chosen polyester. We believe that all things considered it’s the most ecologically responsible medium for the business of performance fabrics.