Fabrics & Materials

Recycled Polyester Clothing Guide

Recycled Polyester Clothing Guide

Recycled Polyester Clothing Guide

Recycled polyester clothing is an amazingly resilient, versatile, and quick-drying material. It's perfect for any adventure and helps the planet at the same time. Find out all about what it is, its benefits, and how it's sustainable in the following guide.


  1. What is recycled polyester clothing?
  2. What is the difference between recycled polyester and polyester fabrics?
  3. How is recycled polyester fabric made?
  4. What are the benefits of recycled polyester clothing?
  5. Why is recycled polyester a sustainable fabric?
  6. Are recycled polyester products suitable for adventure activities?
  7. Layering recycled polyester
  8. Is recycled polyester easy to care for?

What is recycled polyester clothing?

Recycled polyester is made from reusing existing plastic which is sterilized, crushed, and then spun into a yarn that is woven to create a fabric and clothes.

Recycled polyester has all the benefits of regular polyester – it's lightweight, durable, moisture-wicking, and weather-resistant. However, rather than increasing levels of plastic production, it reuses plastic that would otherwise be destined for landfills or our oceans.

Moreover, clothes made from recycled polyester require less energy to make and produce less CO2 emissions making it a more sustainable alternative to regular polyester.

What is the difference between recycled polyester and polyester fabrics?

Whilst polyester fabric is made using crude plastic, recycled polyester is made from recovering existing plastic and reusing it to make future products such as clothing.

Polyester is a synthetic, and therefore non-natural material, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common type of plastic in the world. The primary ingredient of PET is petroleum-based ethylene which is the polymer used to create a fiber. Patented in the 1940s, polyester is now one of the most widely used fabrics in the clothing industry and as of 2020, it overtook cotton as the most used fiber.

PET is so common because it makes everything from plastic bottles to sleeping bags and protective packaging. When recycled, the PET from these products can be recovered to produce recycled polyethylene tetraphyte (rPET) which then serves to be the base of future products made using PET.

Recycled polyester has all the same characteristics as polyester in look and feel, except by using recycled plastic and not creating additional plastic, it helps save natural resources, plastic waste, and energy.

How is recycled polyester fabric made?

Recycled polyester products are indistinguishable from regular polyester products except recycled plastic bottles are the key ingredient, not crude oil.

  1. PET collection: PET products such as bottles are collected at recycling centres from households and businesses and then transported to specialized PET recycling facilities.

  2. PET cleaning and sorting: The PET products are cleaned, disinfected and labels are removed. Using metal detectors and infrared equipment ensures no contaminants e.g. silicone bottle caps, enter the production process and affect the product's quality.

  3. Shredding and filtering: The PET plastic is then crushed and shredded to produce PET flakes. These flakes are then floated on top of a special liquid, where any remaining impurities will then sink leaving behind uncontaminated PET flakes.

  4. PET Pellets: The flakes are then dried and further chopped up to form a pellet.

  5. Fiber production: Using a spinneret, the pellets are then heated up and stretched to form capillaceous threads that are then smoothed and placed on reels to be made into yarn which can then be knitted or woven into fabric.

What are the benefits of recycled polyester clothing?

Elastic recovery

Recycled polyester retains its shape when stretched. Even when stretched by 5-6% it can recover to its natural state. This is because polyester can store high levels of elastic energy, greater than that of cotton, which helps it regain its original shape. Further to being stretch-resistant, its elastic recovery also means it is wrinkle-resistant, retaining its shape and rigidity.


Recycled polyester is characterized as a hydrophobic fabric. Indeed, polyester has a moisture regain value of just 0.4% compared to fibers like cotton at 8% and wool at 16%. Moisture regain refers to the amount of water a material absorbs as a percentage of the weight of the material. This makes polyester a perfect outdoor material as water is not attracted to the fibers and it will therefore dry more quickly in wet conditions. Polyester will also not cause the fabric to stick to your body when things get sweaty.


Recycled polyester is a polymer, meaning it is a material built from a large number of very large molecules, called macromolecules that are linked together. These molecules are so big that they are difficult to separate into individual units. As it is difficult to break down, recycled polyester is strong and is resistant to tears.


Recycled polyester is hydrophobic, as its plastic fibers resist rather than absorb water, unlike natural fibers. Rather than moisture being absorbed by the fabric, it instead moves around the fabric and trickles along the weave. When moisture droplets reach the outside of the fabric and are exposed to the air, they are then evaporated. As moisture is not absorbed by the fabric, this means it dries quickly and keeps you fresher for longer.

Easily combinable

Recycled polyester is frequently combined with other fabrics to create a 'super material' that draws upon the strengths of both materials. For example, our Saanjha Button Crew is a recycled polyester and cotton blend. Whilst the cotton increases the breathability of polyester due to it being a natural fabric, recycled polyester adds tear-resistance, strength, and anti-wrinkle properties to the cotton.

Shop our full range of womens and mens recycled polyester clothing.

Why is recycled polyester a sustainable fabric?

Reduce plastic waste

Plastics are an exceptionally useful material but unfortunately, their usefulness is also why they are so damaging to the environment. As plastic doesn't organically decompose, plastic waste simply keeps piling up, unlike natural resources that can be returned to the earth. The National Geographic estimates that there are now 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean weighing approximately 150 million tonnes. This is a growing problem too, with the International Union of Nature Conservation estimating that 14 million tonnes of plastic are added each year, and this rate of growth is expected to increase as plastic production increases too.

Using and recycling existing plastic has two principal benefits in combatting plastic waste. The first is that it reduces plastic production. Polyester accounts for 60% of PET plastic production. And recycling and not manufacturing new plastic, significantly reduces global PET plastic production. Moreover, recycled polyester also reduces the existing waste problem. A single t-shirt made from recycled polyester can prevent approximately 500 plastic water bottles from going to landfills or entering our oceans. Using recycled polyester can therefore significantly reduce the rate of plastic waste.

Reduces energy and greenhouse gas use

The recycling process involved in creating recycled polyester is far less resource-intensive than creating polyester from scratch. This is because much of the resource requirements for making polyester is the initial PET manufacturing. According to a study by Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, recycled polyester uses 59% less energy than virgin polyester. Moreover, per kilogram produced, recycled PET saves 1.7kg of CO2, a reduction of 79% compared to new PET. To put this in perspective, the savings for a single kilogram of rPET are enough to power a 13-watt bulb continuously for twenty days.

Are recycled polyester products suitable for adventure activities?

Whilst our range of recycled polyester garments are ideal for casual wear such as our women's Tsetang Mock Neck jumper or men's Ramoche Shirt, our recycled polyester collection is also perfect for when the going gets tougher, for hikes or travel. Here's why recycled polyester fabrics are great for adventures:

  • Strong and Durable: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Recycled polyester is strong enough to stretch whilst retaining its shape allowing you the flexibility to move without compromizing the fabric.

  • Quick Drying: As recycled polyester does not absorb water unlike many natural fabrics, this means it is much faster to dry in wet conditions. This also helps retain body temperature if you do get wet as your body heat is not expelled trying to heat the absorbed water.

  • Sweat and Odor wicking: Due to its hydrophobic qualities, recycled polyester transfers moisture from your body to the outside of the fabric allowing it to be evaporated quickly. This helps you stay cool and dry.

  • Insulating Recycled polyester allows air to be trapped in between the fabric's fiber which offers an insulating layer. This makes it perfect to be used as base layers, mid-layers and out-layers.

Find out more about our sustainable adventure gear.

Layering recycled polyester

We have a diverse range of recycled polyester clothing available. This table gives a quick guide to how to build a layered outfit using clothes made from recycled polyester:

Layer Description Suitable Products
Base Layer The main purpose of the inner layer is to regulate temperature by retaining heat and drawing sweat away from the skin.
Mid Layer The mid layer is sometimes called the insulation layer. This is because its main purpose is to retain your body heat and keep you warm.
Outer Layer The outer layer is designed to protect you from the elements, principally heat and rain.

Is recycled polyester easy to care for?

Yes. As the only difference between recycled polyester and virgin polyester is that recycled polyester is made from recycled and not crude plastic, there is no difference in terms of look, feel, and quality. This means recycled polyester is cared for in the same way as regular polyester and requires no special attention.

Whilst you should always read the label, pure recycled polyester products can be machine washed at warm temperatures. They can also be tumble-dried without the risk of shrinking. Moreover, they rarely require ironing due to recycled polyester's natural anti-wrinkle property.