With the growth of the green economy in the past decade, some companies have cottoned-on to the “feel good” factor that goes with saying their bags are made from recycled materials.
While marketing teams slap high-fives and revel in another highly-profitable, customer-friendly initiative, the consumers and bag-buyers are left with an important question: who do we believe?
Should more care be taken when buying reusable bags from companies who claim they use 100% recycled materials, or bags made from 100% RPET or recycled bottles?
First, the facts: PET is the chemical substance Polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as Polyester. Prefixing with an R means the polyester contains recycled content. The content can contain either pre-consumer (e.g. factory off cuts) or post-consumer (e.g. plastic bottles) waste.
Upon request, Dr John Schiers of Polymer Analysis in Melbourne conducted testing for Envirosax regarding the true contents of various polyester yarns made from supposedly “recycled content”. Please consider that it’s very difficult to perform a test to tell the difference between genuine RPET and cheap virgin polyester. His conclusions to the tests are as follows:
“It is not possible to determine by testing the actual recycled content of a particular item due to the additives in the fibres (e.g. dyes, lustrants and spin finishes) as they interfere with the results. This testing, along with other research we have conducted, highlights the following: It cannot be claimed that polyester items are made from a specific number of bottles unless evidence is provided on how this was calculated.”
Due to the massive demand for RPET, supply of the material from certified sources is no longer sufficient. There are now many companies in China that produce bottles for the sole purpose of recycling them immediately into so-called RPET. This is green-washing at its worst and amounts to consumer fraud.
As a result of the huge demand, manufacturer prices on certified RPET are considerably higher than that of virgin polyester. If a company claims a bag is made from 100% RPET without certification, but it’s not much more expensive than a virgin polyester bag, then common-sense suggests that the bag probably isn’t made from RPET.
The terminology regarding material composition in some so-called RPET bags is cleverly phrased so that a quick-read indicates the bags are 100% RPET. A careful reading reveals that this is not the case. Phrases such as, “Produced from 100% recycled bottles” actually means the bottles used in the material were recycled, but doesn’t actually equate to a bag composed of entirely recycled bottles.
Without certification, companies may be deceptive in what they declare to be the content of recycled polyester in their product. Currently, and to the best of our knowledge, SCS Scientific Certification Systems is the only company in the world able to accurately test recycled content in material. Without this proper certification other issues may transpire.
While Envirosax were researching companies who make RPET from 100% recycled content, they were quite often presented with fake SCS certificates and fake documentation. Certification ensures that the amount of recycled content in the product has been verified. As testing has shown, it’s not possible to differentiate between a composition of material that may be only 10% RPET and the rest virgin polyester. The significantly higher cost of producing goods made of 100% RPET compels pricing of products upwards. With this in mind, take heed when buying goods that do not display their certification – you may be paying the price of a marketing ploy rather than a greener, more environmentally friendly product.
THE ALL-NEW ENVIROSAX SCS CERTIFIED RPET FABRIC
After four years of researching RPET manufacturers, Envirosax Pty Ltd has gone into a partnership with Unifi Inc of the USA to create its own SCS certified Envirosax RPET. Envirosax RPET is a mix of 55% flat filament polyester and 45% Repreve® polyester (Unifi Inc).
The 45% Repreve® in the Envirosax RPET is made up of 100% recycled content, 65% pre-consumer and 35% post-consumer recycled polyester content (predominantly plastic bottles).
Repreve® is third party certified by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and Oeka-Tex, and also meets FTC guidelines for recycled products.
The Repreve® process involves converting the pre and post-consumer waste into RPET pellets rather than producing virgin PET pellets. The pellets are the core material used in creating polyester fabric. Essentially, the pellets are heated and stretched to create the filaments that are rolled into yarn and then weaved to make polyester.
The process is so unique the Discovery Channel featured it on an episode of How It’s Made.
Apart from the obvious environmental benefits of using recycled content in the material, the process of creating the fabric as compared to virgin polyester also has many ecological advantages. The method of manufacturing the polyester yarn conserves 3.34 litres of gasoline to every kilo of polyester yarn made. With approximately 25 million tonnes of polyester produced globally per annum, this figure becomes a significant amount. (NOTE: Conservation calculations are specific only to the SCS certified Repreve yarn product which Envirosax uses.)
RPET is a fantastic idea and if manufactured properly can reduce our carbon footprint significantly. However, the industry must be kept honest and companies must be held accountable for claims they make when marketing their goods.