How Recycled Bottles Become T-Shirts
Well, you should be well aware of the need to recycle items that we typically toss out so that they can be reused and turned into other products. Plastics are one of these well-known recyclables that can become other things.
However, not all plastics can be reused. When you look at a plastic container, you should see a recycling logo on it somewhere. That’s the logo that is formed from three arrows that make a triangle. In that triangle should be a single digit.
The plastics that are numbered as Type 1 through to Type 7 identify the type of plastic the container has been made from.
It is with this designation that recyclers know which plastics have to be separated into different piles. Although there are seven different types of plastics identified with this method, there is only one type that can be recycled and reused as fabric or new bottles.
The name of this plastic is Polyethylene Terephthalate plastic (PET or PETE). This type of plastic is relatively new in that it was developed in the 1970s for use in soft drink bottles.
It essentially replaced glass bottles for many beverage producers and happens to be recognized around the world as a safe and reusable packaging material. PET does not contain the harmful chemical bispheonl-A (BPA) which has been linked to several health issues.
How The Plastic Bottles Become T-Shirts
PET bottles are separated from all other plastics and typically get sorted according to color. The main color categories are transparent, blue, green and other. Then the separated bottles get crushed into large bales and shipped to recycling centers. The bales are shredded at that point into small pieces known as PET flakes.
The flakes are fed into a hot air chamber. The temperature is so hot that it causes the flakes to slightly melt to the point where a hard candy-like coating forms. The flakes are then dried to remove any excess moisture. The resulting dried and hard PET flakes are forced through high temperature pipes that will melt them into a thick liquid form.
The liquid polymer is forced through tiny filters that produce the filament form of polyester. The filaments, for comparison, are five times thinner than a human hair. The filaments are collected once they cool and harden. At this point they are fed over rollers with air shooting at them. The process creates fibres that closely resemble dental floss.
This yarn gets spooled onto giant spools then pulled over hot rollers to stretch the fabric. It will stretch up to five times its original length. The stretching also helps to align the polyester molecules which in turn strengthen the final product. The yarn is then cooled, spun onto spools and is ready to be woven into clothing or blended into clothing.
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