Fashion Reinvents Itself Again

More and more manufacturers and designers are turning recycled plastic into stylish clothing.

Retro fashion isn’t the only thing making a comeback on today’s runways. New plastic solutions are revolutionizing the fashion industry, and environmentally conscious consumers are paying attention. Textiles, clothing and even shoes made from recycled plastic are in style, including from athleisure and outdoor apparel brands such as Allbirds and Patagonia. Turning used plastic into recycled plastic feedstock for new products is just one of the ways innovation can give plastic a new life through recycling.

A cycle that keeps spinning

More than half of the world’s fiber produced is polyestera synthetic fiber first invented in the 1930s in a DuPont lab. In the 1990s, Milliken & Company brand Polartec worked with Patagonia to create polyester thread from recycled plastic bottles, or rPET, to make the first recycled synthetic fleece. rPET can be used in everything from workout wear to shoes, outdoor clothing to military uniforms. Polyester fabrics are particularly durable, resistant to stretching and shrinking, easy to clean, quick drying, and resistant to wrinkles, mildew and abrasions.

From waste to wear

Consumers are seeking more environmentally conscious brands and clothing options, with data pointing to this trend continuing for the long term. Demand for rPET has been forecasted to triple by 2050, to make not only new single-use bottles but also clothing that can keep us warm and comfortable for years to come. Many companies, like Adidas, Rothy’s and Ralph Lauren, have committed to use recycled plastic in their apparel.

To feed this demand, many programs are already in place to enhance labeling, create better ways to capture and sort used plastic and make it easier to get the materials to where they’re needed.

Beyond apparel

Turning plastic waste into something beautiful and useful doesn’t stop at the closet door. From suitcases and jewelry to carpets, home decor and even art, recycled plastics find new purpose in all parts of our lives.

America’s Plastic Makers: Making Sustainable ChangeSM will keep you updated on the latest tech advances, industry news and partner stories that make innovations like rPET a reality for a more sustainable future.