From Plastic bottles to Polyester Clothing

Nina Mairanger, student at the Wiener Neustadt Fashion School in Austria invited us to wacht this video about the amazing process of transforming plastic bottles into clothes. She has written the following interesting essay about this topic.

Nina Mairanger, estudiante en la escuela de moda de Wiener Neustadt en Austria nos invita a ver este vídeo sobre el proceso de transformación de las botellas de plástico en ropa. Ha escrito la siguiente reflexión sobre el tema.

"In the UK billions of plastic bottles are thrown away every year. We are getting much better at recycling them, but did you know that they also can be turned into clothing? .

This amazing process starts at the bottle recycling center: The first stage is shredding. When you throw away your bottle you often leave a small amount of drink inside. Shredding all the bottles releases the unwanted liquids so it doesn’t affect the quality of the plastic. The shredded bottles are then wrapped in cellophane and boxed up ready to be shipped around the world. It may be rubbish to us, but to the Chinese textile Industry this plastic waste is a valuable commodity. 

Recycled bottles arrive from around the world to feed the busy clothing industry. Sorting separates the clear plastic from the colored stuff. Clear plastic can be made into white clothes or material that can be dyed, so it’s extremely valuable. Most clear plastic bottles have colored lids and stickers on them but these have got to go, so the bottles head for the baths. The colored caps are made out of a different plastic, which floats.A worker can then strain them off the top. Then there’s a separate bath for the stickers, but the workers have to be careful around this one: it’s corrosive caustic soda - very bad for the skin, but very good for removing labels. After all their wimming what’s left is a pile of clear plastic shreds, but it’s rather wet.  The next step is the oven, where it’s mixed with some light colored plastics. To produce white cloth, you need some light shaded material in the mix. The plastic will spend about 10 hours in rotating drums, where it slowly dries out. 

The plastic bottles are now broken down and mixed to produce the right colors but it’s very hard to we have cloths from bits and pieces, so another step is needed. The mixture is sent through a rotating screw, where it’s heated to 270°C. This melts the plastic, but to make cloth, we don’t want a big lump - we need thread.The liquid plastic is forced through a sieve and emerges on the other side as little strings, which are collected in the container below. We’ve now got thread but it isn’t strong enough to make cloth yet. First it must be combined and stretched several times while being heated  - this will bond the fibers together. Now, it’s taken ages to produce this material, but the next part of this process is to tear it apart again.  The fluff that emerges is the raw substance you need to makePolyester. However, that takes place in another factory all together, so the workers bail it up and send it on.It looks like cotton, but it is an entirely man-made substance, created from your old bottles. A machine scrapes it all into a very rough cloth which is loaded into another machine, ready to be carded. Carding is where the bonded fibers are brushed together, so they all lie in a similar direction which strengthens the material. The sheet of polyester-felt that emerges is now ready to be turned into thread. These machines will tease it out - they spin off mile after mile of pure polyester which is  collected on bobbins (Buch S. 56). And finally, we reach the point where your old plastic bottles become cloth. Like a spider at the center of its web, the loom draws in thousands of threads and weaves a new sheet of polyester. 

So we’ve turned our recycled bottles into Polyester at last. Now it’s time to make some clothes. Using a roll of material stylists mark out the latest designs being as economical as they can with their handy templates.

Although they are profiting from your rubbish, they don’t want to create any more waste. The pieces will then be sent to workers who turn your trash into the trendiest gear you can find on the high-street. So what started out as your rubbish was carefully sorted, then shredded and turned into cloth. That cloth was shredded into fluff, spun into thread and turned into fashion - from plastic bottles to Polyester clothing".

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