‘Only 1% of all garments produced get recycled’

In this week’s Net Hero Podcast, we spoke to Ietje Klaver, Head of Operations at sustainable fashion company, PYRATEX who told us that polyester production is increasing despite everything we know

Big Zero Report 2023

More than half of everything produced is made of polyester.

This is what Ietje Klaver, Head of Operations at sustainable fabrics company, PYRATEX told us in this week’s Net Hero Podcast.

‘The whole end of life [of garments] is one of our biggest challenges now in the fashion industry because I think what most people don’t know is that what we see [as recycled] is not post-consumer but post-industrial recycled.

‘We’re 8 billion people here on the planet that need to be dressed every day and in order to sustain that demand, it’s estimated that the textile industry emits more than half a million tonnes of microplastics in to the sea every year, just by the sheer amount of polyester that is produced.

‘There’s a difference between natural fibres and synthetic fibres and polyester is a synthetic fibre made from petrol. Compared to natural fibres, synthetic fibres are not biodegradable. So a polyester shirt can biodegrade between 200 to 400 years.

‘And right now what we’re seeing is that the amount of polyester being used is increasing, despite everything we know. And more than half of everything produced is actually made of polyester.

‘[And] the supply chain is not very transparent. [So] its very important to ask yourself, where is this garment coming from? Where’s the fibre coming from? What is it made of? These are all important questions to ask yourself.’

Ietje told us that blended fabrics are a real problem in terms of recyclability.

‘Natural fibres are often blended with polyester and that is a real problem. For instance, cotton can be recycled but it’s a mechanical process. And polyester can be recycled but it’s not the same process to recycle a 100% of it. So when you have those blends, it makes [recycling] more difficult.’

Ietje told us that PYRATEX is working on replacing synthetic fibres.

‘So we are an R&D company and a textile supplier of circular knits. We are focused on replacing synthetic fibres with new natural and recycled ones. The kind of fibres that you can find in our collection are, for instance, seaweed based fibres or banana agri-waste, agri-waste from the orange industry and recycled cotton.

‘There are a lot of innovations taking place in the textile industry and often the only issue is that they are not scalable or they’re not focused on the market. So in the end, you don’t see them in the high street. And this is what we’re aiming to [solve for].’

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