THE DEEP DIVE...Into Why Recycled Polyester ≠ Circular Fashion

Dear Reader,

Welcome to THE DEEP DIVE. This is an ongoing quest into the bigger questions that occupy our minds as we move together towards a positive global ecosystem that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet.

We believe in circular fashion as a catalyst for a circular economy. However, circular fashion is a construct that's hard to be defined, or is it? Based on our founder's thorough research (jokingly called a self-styled PhD into circular fashion), we dedicate this article to what circular fashion is not. The goal is to help you detect warning signs of greenwashing.

Recycling is often mentioned in a brand's messaging involving circular fashion. Let's dive into what recycling is, what the challenge is with recycled materials like "recycled polyester" and what a better practice is.

What is recycling?

The verb to recycle is defined by Cambridge Dictionary as:

to use a special industrial process in order to make materials and products ready to be used again

The process of recycling a plastic bottle

In a practical sense the story of a plastic bottle goes as follows.

  1. The plastic bottle is disposed of by its user

  2. The plastic bottle ends up in a sorting facility

  3. The plastic bottle is separated from its lid (cap)

  4. The plastic bottle is stripped off any stickers from a brand attached onto it

  5. The plastic is melted into a liquid

  6. The liquid is then formed into small pellets

  7. The pellets are processed to become another plastic bottle

  8. The plastic bottle is recycled

The key word is cycle. The materials flow through a cycle from plastic for a bottle, to a liquid, and then back into a bottle.

Recycled Polyester

When it comes to the fashion industry, in particular "recycled polyester", the reality is that this fabric does not come from disposed of polyester fabric. In fact, it comes from these plastic bottles we just read about.

Bringing polyester fabric, which is often coated or dyed with pigments - a whole other material system - is an incredibly challenging and expensive industrial process.

Now let's swim back to the surface and if you found this useful, then why not share it with friends and colleagues who may want to read this too?

Do you want to go more in-depth?

Please e-mail your question(s) to us at and we'll be happy to go more in-depth into this with you!