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2020-04-17 / HFE Team

Recycling PET bottles into Yarn

Background and growth of plastic usage

The invention of plastic led to a global consumer revolution. It was cheap to produce, scalable in usage, and extremely durable. Most importantly, it was readily available everywhere. The concept that bottled water is better than tap water led to people using more plastic bottles and, consequently, discarding them after a single-use.

The overuse of plastic bottles and the resulting dumping has given birth to an environmental crisis as severe as climate change. Much of the plastic ends up in the oceans via land. Trash is also carried by rivers, collecting discarded plastic from around the world and eventually ending up in the oceans. Once at sea, wind, sunlight, and waves further break the plastic into micro-plastic, which are less than one-fifth of an inch across. These micro-plastics have been found across the globe and in tap water, finding its way in the food chain.

Scenario in India

India produces nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. However, a little over 10,000 tonnes remain uncollected. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, 94% is made up of recyclable materials like Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). A poor rag picking network and multiple intermediaries, lead to inefficient collection and disposal of the plastic waste. The need is to establish a system where people can dispose of their bottles properly, which could then be safely collected and sent to recycling centres. Zeleno, a brand that encourages people to dispose of PET bottles in its Reverse Vending Machine by incentivizing them, aims to recycle these bottles into yarn and fabrics.

Process of Recycling

The process of recycling begins by sorting plastic items according to make and composition so that they can be processed accordingly in the shredding machine. They are then washed thoroughly to remove adhesives, prints, and labels. Once the plastic is washed, it is fed into a shredder that tears up the plastic into small pellets for further recycling. The pellets are then tested for quality and classified accordingly. The pellets are then melted into dense material and passed through spinnerets, in the form of filaments, followed by cutting into length-defined fibres for spinning. After weaving, the fabric is converted into a garment. The recycled PET yarn can also be blended with other fibres to create varieties. The end product finds its application in lifestyle products like pillows, quilts, mattresses, non-woven carpets, non-woven roofing insulation, and fur fabrics.

Recycling plastic waste: Saving the Environment

Recycling plastic waste helps to conserve space that otherwise would be used for dumping. It also helps in reducing the use of oil, which is non-renewable and in limited supply. Recycling plastic bottles takes eight times less energy than to produce an equivalent amount of new ones. With lesser consumption of energy, the burning of fossil fuels also decreases and, consequently, the emission of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that one ton of plastic bottles recycled saves 3.8 barrels of oil, and one million plastic bottles recycled eliminates 180 metric tons of CO2 emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

With the rampant use of PET bottles in our ‘on-the-go’ culture, recycling is, without a doubt, the savior of the hour. While a general sense of responsibility prevails, significant awareness is needed to practice the use of recyclable materials coupled with proper disposal of plastic. Recycling PET into yarn and fabric is undoubtedly a step towards a cleaner planet, and we must make sure the momentum persists.

 

Contributed by: Zeleno

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