Sustainable cycling clothing with rPET
If you're on the lookout for cycling apparel that is made with sustainable fabrics and in an ethical way, this is the place for you. These products are greener and help do a little part in keeping our environment cleaner. They have been produced with ethical and sustainable fabrics sourced from around the world. We've sourced several rPET fabrics, and many components are OEKO-TEX® certified. Plus, they are all made ethically in our facility located in Pittsburgh, PA.
Ending fast fashion
It is a fact that the fashion industry is a heavy contributor to carbon emissions. A recent study found that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of total carbon emissions. What's more concerning is that 85% of all textiles produced find their way to landfills each year. Fast fashion is a heavy contributor to this issue. The fashion industry has become very good at making items very inexpensively. This has mainly come at the expense of human labor and creating unethical work environments. Cheap clothing has made trend chasing very popular with consumers. Inexpensive clothing and fast-changing trends are the leading causes of textile waste.
Cycling apparel is put through the longevity test every time you ride. We promise to source long-lasting fabrics that will not break down after one or two seasons of use. We put every fabric we use in our cycling apparel through rigorous tests to ensure we create a quality product. Every fabric is put through an abrasion test to ensure it can withstand the stresses caused by cycling. In the event of a product failure, we are capable of offering free repairs to any product we make. Thus, keeping more textiles out of the landfill.
For more information about fast fashion and its harmful environmental effects, see our article Faster Isn't Always Better.
Cold Weather Eco Cycling Apparel
We made the Eco Repreve Grid Pullover because we wanted to provide a cold-weather excellent top that was sustainable and performed well. We found the Grid fabric to do an excellent job holding in heat, but it performed well in removing sweat. We also loved that not only was this fabric created with Repreve, but it also provided a casual look. This pullover is great for riding to work and being comfortable while looking good at work all day.
A new active pant for the future. The ECO jogger uses an rPET fabric that is incredibly soft and comfortable. The drawstring waist creates the perfect fit. These joggers are great for active use or lounging around the house. Each ECO Jogger is made by recycling plastic and transforming it into polyester.
What are rPET fabrics
rPET stands for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, also known as recycled PET. Polyethylene terephthalate is a thermoplastic polymer resin. PET is the resin used in the manufacturing process to create soda bottles, water bottles, food containers, and other commonly found plastic items. In 2016 alone, over 56 million tons of PET were used to create products.
When these containers are recycled, they become rPET or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. rPET can create textile fabrics, automotive parts, shoes, fill for winter jackets, luggage, or new containers. Using an rPET fabric gives a second life to the plastic bottle. We use rPET to create new cycling clothing. The most common recycled polyester applications include cycling jerseys and cycling socks.
There are many producers of rPET, with REPREVE® being one of the most well-known or popular brands. Launched in 2007 by parent company Unifi, Repreve has transformed over 36,000,000,000 (and counting) bottles into reusable fabrics.
Recycled polyester fabrics work very well to create cycling apparel. Polyester fabrics have become a staple in the cycling apparel industry. Their natural properties of wicking moisture, being lightweight and being easily printable make them the perfect fabric for cycling clothing. Few natural fibers can mimic the benefits of polyester. rPET fabrics have been found to maintain the benefits of polyester fabrics while helping reuse existing plastics.
Interesting rPET facts
1. rPET and PET products are completely recyclable
2. Foods and liquids left in containers, when recycled, can contaminate the recycling process.
3. rPET can be used as a 3D printer filament
4. The United States reuses over 1.5 billion pounds of PET annually.
5. PET collection systems differ from country to country. For example, residential curbside pickup is a common collection method in the United States. In Germany, retailers collect bottles, and a deposit is placed on containers.
Summertime ECO Cycling Jerseys
Fresh colors, fantastic fit, light and airy. The ECO Cycling Jersey is perfect for those summer day rides. This recycled material is buttery soft to the point it feels like silk. Breathability is important in the summer, and this performs like no other. UPF 50+ sun protection is built into this fabric as well. This cycling jersey is so comfortable it will quickly become your favorite. The ECO Cycling Jersey is available in five colors.
History of rPET and recycled polyester
Polyethylene Terephthalate was invented in 1940 by John Rex Whinfield. One of the first applications of the patent was used by E.I. Dupont de Nemours to create a polyester film. The first PET bottle was invented in 1973 by Nathaniel Wyeth, and Dupont patented it. By 1978 the rush to make more plastic bottles was on. Coca-Cola and Pepsi had discovered its usefulness and became two of the first companies to push it to the masses. Using plastic bottles seemed great in the beginning. It reduced costs, increased profits, and passed the responsibility to recycle the bottles onto the consumers. Unfortunately, we are seeing the adverse effects of producing all these plastic bottles now, 50 years later. According to 4Oceans, a plastic bottle is one of every three pieces of trash removed from the ocean. PET was first recycled four years after being invented in 1977. The earliest recycling of Polyethylene Terephthalate was used to create new bottles, containers, etc.
Recycling plastic took time to catch on. In fact, and not surprisingly, the plastic industry lobbied against it heavily. The industry produced a report that concluded "there is no recovery from obsolete products" and that sorting the plastic to recycle was "infeasible". In the 1980s, the disposal of plastic started to switch from landfill deposits to incineration. This led to more problems because the incinerators at the time lacked proper emission control systems leading to increase air pollution.
Polyester was first used in outdoor apparel in the late 80s and early 90s. A little company called Patagonia was looking for a replacement for using wool. Wool provided great warmth, but was slow to dry, held odors, and would get eaten by moths. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s CEO, collaborated with Malden Mills and created the first performance fleece. They called it Synchilla.
In 1995 Malden Mills experienced a devastating fire when a boiler exploded. Unfortunately, the fire destroyed the entire facility of Malden Mills. Aaron Feuerstein, the CEO then, promised to do everything he could to rebuild and continue. In fact, he continued paying payroll the entire time the facility was being reconstructed. Because of this, Polartec Fleece was able to continue.
Advantages of rPET
Even though it is debated whether or not enough plastic could ever be recycled to cause a noticeable impact, it’s safe to say there are many advantages of recycling plastics. PET is considered to be highly recyclable. This means it can be remelted and spun into a reusable material time and time again. The hardest part is collecting and cleaning the plastic over and over.
There is a reason PET became so popular for businesses to produce and use. Its low cost to produce helps drive profits, and it is lightweight, which helps save on shipping costs. Well, rPET retains those benefits. Although slightly higher than PET, the costs to produce are rPET relatively low.
Another advantage of rPET is that it uses less energy to produce than new plastics. rPET creates 79% fewer carbon emissions than it takes to produce the same amount of PET.
However, and most obviously, rPET is giving a second or third life to an object that would just be sitting in a landfill or the ocean. And, even though the process of recycling all plastic and slowing the production of new virgin PET isn’t quite perfect yet, the steps are in the right direction. If businesses continue to demand more rPET for containers or fabrics, production will increase, and the recycling process will improve.
Sun Protection Eco Cycling Apparel
Allow the breeze to keep you comfortable and block the harmful sun rays simultaneously. The ECO Eclipse jersey is made from a recycled material that is light and soft. Protect your skin with built-in UPF 50+ protection. Don't be fooled by the long sleeves; this fabric can make you feel cooler even on hot days.
Why choose rPET for cycling apparel?
rPET fabrics have many advantages in cycling apparel. Recycled cycling apparel can perform just as well as cycling apparel made with nonrecycled polyester. rPET is a very strong fiber that lasts for a long time. Cycling puts fabrics through the durability test every time a rider goes out. The durability properties of rPET make it perfect for cycling apparel. It can also make strong threads that hold the fabrics together without falling apart. Polyester is naturally resistant to shrinking or stretching, so your cycling apparel will retain its natural size for a long time.
Cycling apparel can be dyed or sublimated to print colors or designs. rPET prepared for print fabrics are great for sublimation printing. We can create beautiful designs or custom cycling apparel on recycled polyester. These fabrics hold colors well and will not wash out when laundered. Pre-dyed rPET fabrics are also available from many suppliers.
rPET fabrics are easy to wash and quick to dry. Any cyclist who has done multi-day tours has probably had to wash their apparel in a sink and can attest to the ease of caring for polyester. With just a packet of sports apparel detergent and a sink bowl, cyclists can rinse and wash their bike shorts so that they are clean enough to ride in again. After the bike shorts and jerseys are clean, hang them to dry, and they’ll be ready in the morning.
Lastly, cycling apparel has to manage moisture and dry quickly. It has to remove sweat from the body and let it evaporate quickly. This is why cotton is not seen in cycling apparel. Holding in moisture is uncomfortable and can lead to chaffing, which will ruin a day of cycling. rPET fabrics are proven performers when it comes to managing sweat and moisture. Sweat will wick away and keep you dry all day.
The rPET process - How it’s made
Step 1: Collection
Finding old PET is the first step to creating new products. Collection methods can differ from country to country. In the USA, weekly or bimonthly home collection is a popular method. However, other countries have collection stations at retail locations. Each bottle has a refundable deposit. Without a good collection system in place, recycling PET does not work.
Step 2: Sorting and Bundling
Once the bottles and containers are collected, they are transported to a recycling facility. At this facility, the different collected items must be sorted, so that like items are grouped together. After sorting, each container must be sterilized and dried out. Recycling centers then press the containers into transportable cubes. These are sent to various places to continue the process.
Step 3: Crushing
The third step to recycling plastic is to put it into machines that crush the material into tiny chips or pellets.
Step 4: Melting and Stretching
After the plastic is crushed into uniform pellets, heat is added to soften it and bring it to a melting point. Additives are mixed in at this time. Once at the right consistency, the melted plastic is run through a spinneret. This creates strands of yarn.
Step 5: Weaving
Now that the strands of yarn are created, a fabric can be woven. The PET can be woven into 100% recycled polyester or mixed with other fabrics like wool, nylon, or virgin polyester to make the desired fabric.
Merino Wool Cycling Apparel
Although not made with recycled polyester, merino wool is an excellent alternative to PET. Merino wool's natural properties will wick sweat away and keep you dry all day. It is also great at preventing odors from building up. Keep in mind that some merino wool products, like those shown above, use a blend of other fabrics. These blends can help increase performance; however, they can contain polyester.
Common questions about PET and rPET
1. Can recycled polyester be printed or sublimated?
Absolutely! There are many rPET fabrics that are available for PFP or prepared for print. These recycled fabrics are made to withstand the heat and pressure of sublimating printing.
2. Are rPET fabrics durable?
Recycled polyester fabrics have been found to be as durable as virgin polyesters. In fact, we put every fabric we use in our cycling apparel through rigorous testing to ensure they can withstand cycling stresses. Using a Martindale Abrasion Tester, each fabric is tested to ensure abrasion damage and pilling will not occur.
3. Will recycled polyester wick moisture?
Recycled polyester performs as well as virgin polyesters regarding moisture management. Moisture wicking is important for all cycling apparel so the rider stays dry and comfortable. Recycled polyester moves sweat off the body and allows it to evaporate quickly.
4. Is recycled polyester really better for the environment
It uses less energy and has a smaller carbon footprint to create polyester from existing plastic than it does to create new plastic. It has been reported that rPET manufacturing generates 79% fewer carbon emissions than it takes to create PET. Plus, given how many tons of plastic are created yearly, giving that plastic a second or third use is better than creating new. However, it’s not entirely guilt-free. rPET, when washed, can still create and introduce microplastics to the outside environment.
5. How many tons of plastic have been produced, and how many have been recycled?
It has been estimated that a total of 6.3 billion tons of plastic have been mass-produced since it was invented. Out of that, only 600 million tons have been recycled.
Next generation of sustainability
Where does the textile industry go from here? The industry is already converting plastic bottles into clothing. One might think the only thing to be done next is to ramp up recycling efforts and production. But that isn't the entire future. There is always something that can be improved. The textile industry's next step is to improve processes by using less energy, water, and chemicals in the future.
Leading the charge on reducing chemicals is Green Theme Technologies (GTT). They have developed a water-free and chemical-free stain protection coating. Their coating has been proven to outperform PFA coatings. Another company working hard to reduce chemicals is Odorex. They have developed an odor neutralizer that does not contain biocides. Both these companies are pushing the boundaries and expanding sustainability.
There are other areas to watch the development of sustainability. One is with recycled fabrics. The rPET creation process will use less energy and produce fewer emissions than creating virgin polyester in the future. Supply chains will improve, and efficiencies will get better. All this will lead to a reduction in price for rPET. Also, the dyeing technology will be improved upon. Lower temperatures will be used in the dyeing process, reducing costs and energy waste.
Sustainable cycling apparel will benefit from all the new technological advances. Rain protection coatings, sun protection, and even the base polyester will only improve. We can change an industry that is heavy users of virgin polyester and help do a minor part in reducing waste and energy in the future.
What is OEKO-TEX® Standard
First, we have to understand what OEKO-TEX® association is all about. This organization was founded in 1992 with the mission to certify textile producers that were creating materials that were harmless to human health. The Hohenstein Research Institute and the Austrian Textile Research Institute founded the association. A third institute, Testex, later joined the association. Their goal was to provide assurances to consumers that the products they were buying were free from harmful substances. By 2009 over 10000 certifications had been issued in that calendar year making the total number of certificates awarded almost 90000. Currently, OEKO-TEX® has offices in more than 70 countries. Independent textile and leather testing institutes are located in Europe and Japan.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100® (product label) – Launched in 1992. A label to prove the product is free of harmful substances
OEKO-TEX Standard 1000® – Launched in 1995. A label to prove the material or product is environmentally friendly and produced in socially responsible facilities.
STeP by OEKO-TEX® (production facility certification) – Replaced the OEKO-TEX® Standard 1000 in 2013. It continued to certify environmentally and socially responsible companies.
MySTeP by OEKO-TEX® – In 2014, OEKO-TEX® rolled out a new tool to help textile companies manage their supply chains.
MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® (product label) – A new label that was introduced in 2014. This label is awarded to textile manufacturers that could prove that they produced products without harmful substances and were manufactured in an environmentally friendly way while providing fair working conditions.
ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX® (chemical label) – In 2015, a new certification was introduced. This was a two-stage verification process that proved manufacturers of process chemicals and chemical compounds meet the criteria for environmentally friendly production.
DETOX TO ZERO by OEKO-TEX® – This 2016 certification allows production facilities to assess their chemical management systems and the quality of their waste water and provide documentation through credible independent verification.
LEATHER STANDARD by OEKO-TEX® (product label) – In 2017, a new standard for leather production was introduced. To earn this certification, leather products are tested for all types of harmful substances.
GMO-Check for STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® – The institution introduced a new GMO check for cotton and cotton products in 2018.
OEKO-TEX RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS® – In 2022 a new certification was introduced. This helps brands and retailers meet supply chain due diligence requirements in the textile and leather industries.
Many of the components that Aero Tech Designs uses to produce cycling apparel are certified under an OEKO-TEX certification.