Perhaps you’ve bought yourself a new T-shirt or sweatshirt lately. When you put it on you see that its label says, “I used to be a plastic bottle”. If this is the case, your athleisure fashion garment was likely manufactured from recycled polyester.

Fashionable or not, most of us wear some form of polyester. Polyester is an exceptionally versatile fabric that has become the most popular choice for clothing. It overtook cotton (both organic and original) in popularity in 2002.

You can read our informative guide on recycled materials right here.

By 2020, everybody was producing and buying recycled polyester known as rPET. In fact, 52 percent of fibres manufactured that year were polyester. And it’s likely that this trend has continued.

Of course, we live in a world where being ethical, sustainable and nurturing our precious environment is uppermost in our minds. So, it should come as no surprise that the world had to find a way of recycling polyester for sustainability reasons. View maake’s recycled polyester fabrics.


People create this material, commonly called rPET, from discarded recyclable plastic bottles and containers. We’re talking about cold drinks, take-away items, straws and the like. 

This more environmentally friendly fabric is certainly a great alternative. In fact, we use far fewer resources to produce polyester than other synthetic cloths. And tests have shown that its production generates fewer CO2 emissions.

How does one make recycled polyester fabric?

This more eco-friendly type of cloth is a great environmentally friendly choice, especially when you compare it to regular virgin polyester. Businesses use renewable raw materials to produce virgin polyester. They make it by melting down existing plastic and respinning it into new polyester fibre.

Factories create recycled polyester (rPET) out of household items that people have discarded after use. Recycled polyester uses pet as the raw fabric. This type of polyester is made from recycled plastic bottles as well as straws, and containers. People also make it from other similar types of waste from manufacturers and factories.

The different ways to recycle fabrics

The most common method used to recycle polyester is mechanical recycling. This involves melting down the waste items to make new thread. However, after recycling polyester this way a few times, the fibre tends to weaken. So, they had to create another form of recycling. 

The chemical recycling process is more expensive but has longer-lasting effects. Factories create it chemically by dissecting plastic molecules and then building them up again into yarn. This method of processing chemically recycled polyester maintains the quality of the thread. In fact, if you do it this way, you can reprocess polyester over and over again.

What type of fashion material is Repreve? 

You’ll often hear about ‘Repreve’, an upgrade of sustainable recycled polyester. Factories produce this more viable brand in the US under the brand name ‘Unifi.’

First manufactured in 1971, it uses plastic lids and bottles to create the recycled polyester. It’s famous because it has a low environmental impact. The reason? Producing this type of fibre involves using less energy and water plus less gas emissions.

We mostly use Repreve polyester for fashion brands and athletic wear. Companies also create some materials from these sustainable cloths.

The difference between virgin polyester and recycled polyester

Synthetic man-made virgin polyester was first produced in the 1930s. Factories create this virgin material out of fossil fuels. They also produce it using the most common form of plastic on earth, rPET. (This is the short form of the technical term ‘polyethylene terephthalate’.) We use these fibres to make all sorts of products, everything from sustainable fashion garments to upholstery.

Polyester has always been a popular choice, as it doesn’t stretch or shrink after washing. It’s durable and easy to clean, dries fast and doesn’t crease, too. 

Factories make this synthetic material from petroleum, which, as we know, is not practical. The process of transforming crude oil into petroleum involves using plenty of energy, which is not environmentally friendly. It also releases several toxins into the atmosphere. This is harmful to humans, the environment and the world’s fragile eco-system.

The original synthetic polyester fabric is extremely popular and still widely produced. This is despite many sustainable fabric on the market like reprocessed polyester.

How is recycled polyester eco-friendly?

Recycled Polyester is a viable alternative to the original material and helps reduce our carbon footprint. Factories produce it out of plastic waste.

The manufacturing process conserves much less energy than the process used to produce synthetic virgin polyester fibres.

Factories make this type of material by sorting and melting plastic waste products and breaking them up into small polyester chips.

They then melt the chips and spin them into a recycled fibre. We use this fibre to make all sorts of material items.

For more information on sustainable fabric and materials read our go-to guide.

Certification standards for recycled material

For this reprocessed to be high quality and environmentally friendly, it has to meet certain certification regulations. These include the GRS (Global Recycled Standard) that ensures the fibres meet certain criteria, and the Oeko-Tex 100 Standard.

The Global Recycled Standard involves following strict chemical order in the manufacturing process of recycled polyester. The manufacturer also needs to follow best practices when it comes to social and environmental responsibility.

Under the Oeko-Tex100 Standard, manufacturing recycled polyester fibres requires using fabric free of chemicals. Also, the material produced cannot include substances that will harm the environment and the health of human beings.

Read all about material certifications here.

Benefits of using this synthetic material in your business

·      We believe this material is affordable.

·      A fashion brand will choose polyester because it is so durable.

·      Often people make clothing for children and infants out of sustainable recycled polyester. It's popular because it is soft, lightweight, and gentle on the skin. This material is also used to make swimsuits as it is resistant to UV rays.

·      For industrial use, polyester is an excellent choice. They are very long-lasting and can be resistant to fire and insects.

·      More eco-friendly reprocessed polyester is another big plus. Plastic pollution is a major environmental issue.

Producing this particular textile offers non-toxic products a second life. This means that the product doesn’t end up in the ocean or a landfill.

Also, the production process uses less energy

·      Good news – printing on the recycled material requires a water-free heat transfer process, which is eco-friendly.

What do we use this recycled material for?

·    Recycling polyester accounts for a lot of the fashion clothing children and adults wear, including the high fashion industry, every popular leisure apparel brand and workwear. 

·    Because of its durability, this textile is a smart choice for sportswear (including sports shoes). We also use it as linings for coats and other outdoor garments.

·    One can transform this versatile material into all sorts of custom homeware items like cushions, curtains, aprons, tea towels and blankets. (See our fabulous selection of ready-made homeware items from MaakeHome!)

We also use this more eco-friendly material to create fashionable soft furnishings such as linen, tableware, comforters and bedspreads. (See more of the ready-made homeware items we offer from MaakeHome!)

Printing on rPET 

You're in for a treat when you print one of maake’s 10,000+ unique designs on this versatile fabric. The same applies when you create your own design to print on recycled polyester to sell in your online shop.

The results are exceptional. The colours are bright and have extremely vivid saturated tints.

They don’t fade after washing and there’s a sharpness of detail that makes the design stand out. 

Read all about the eco-friendly fabrics UK businesses choose for their products, Recycled Polyester included.

And if you’re running a small business yourself, find out why your business should be eco-friendly.