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Recycled Polyester

For over ten years, Nau has led the development and use of recycled polyester in our fabrics. Because it can be manufactured in any length, diameter, cross-section or strength, polyester is an incredibly versatile tool in creating technical fabrics with a wide variety of properties. By choosing recycled polyester, we’re able to deliver the same technical performance in fibers with a smaller environmental footprint.

What makes recycled polyester a better choice? In this FAQ, we explore how recycled polyester reduces waste to benefit the environment, and ultimately you.



What is polyester?

Ubiquitous in apparel of all kinds, polyester is a manmade fiber synthesized from petroleum in a process called polymerization. Composed of long, hydrophobic molecules, polyester is inherently durable, elastic and quick to dry. Roughly 36 million tons of polyester are produced every year.

What is recycled polyester?

Recycled polyester is simply polyester produced from recycled sources: PET bottles, industrial polyester waste, and even old garments. The process utilizes two methods, chemical and mechanical recycling. Chemical recycling involves reconstituting the fiber on a molecular level: by breaking down the source polyester to the monomer level, we’re able to create new polymers that are indistinguishable from virgin polyester. This method is primarily used for dyed and finished polyester products. Mechanical recycling uses clear PET bottles that are cleaned, chipped and then melted down and extruded into fiber. Nau prefers the mechanical method due to it focus on post consumer source and lower processing energy. Recycled Polyester decreases our use of petroleum, keeps waste out of landfills, and lowers our overall carbon footprint. However, today only 3-10% of polyester fabric production is recycled.

So Recycled Polyester is made from water bottles?

Sometimes, but not always. Recycled polyester uses PET as its raw material. This PET can be post-consumer—from plastic water and soda bottles—or from pre-consumer (also called post-industrial) waste—from fiber producers, tire cord manufacturers, polymerization plants, etc.

How is recycled polyester different from virgin polyester?

Because the recycling process reconstitutes the fiber on a molecular level, there is no difference between recycled polyester and virgin polyester. In terms of chemistry, performance and durability, recycled polyester offers the same benefits, including high strength and functional versatility, with a lower environmental impact than traditional polyester.

When does Nau use recycled polyester?

Whenever possible—and in the vast majority products featuring polyester—Nau chooses recycled polyester over virgin polyester. Exceptions include trims and certain color effects where recycled options are not available.

Why is recycled polyester better?

Producing recycled polyester is dramatically better for the climate, creating 75% less CO2 emissions than virgin polyester. That’s because recycled polyester doesn’t require new petroleum to create, lowering the demand for new petroleum extraction and reducing our overall carbon footprint. And by providing a use for post-consumer and post-industrial polyester, it helps keep waste out of landfills.

Given that fact, and because polyester accounts for approximately 60% of the world's production of PET—about twice what’s used in plastic bottles—developing a non-virgin supply chain for polyester fiber has the potential to massively impact global energy and resource requirements.

Where is recycled polyester made?

We source our recycled polyester from a number of certified manufacturers, primarily in Japan and Taiwan.

How is recycled polyester certified?

Recycled polyester is certified by independent third-party organizations to recycled standards including Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) to confirm we’re doing our part in reducing our environmental impact.

Does recycled polyester require less energy to produce than virgin polyester?

Yes. While the energy inputs of the complete supply chain for virgin and recycled polyester are incredibly complicated given the energy required to extract and refine new petroleum, current estimates suggest that recycled polyester requires 75% less CO2 emissions than virgin polyester.

Shop the Recycled Polyester Collection here.