How are contemporary enterprises recycling bottles to yarns for making fabrics?
Sorting out PET bottles to yarns that can be successfully woven or knit into wearable
fabrics or apparel is really a historic approach that exclusively includes the indulging of fashion as well as ecology.
I know, most of us might be thinking that it’s already cringy enough to think about those trashed bottles
lying all over the place, and to think about wearing the trash on…clearly not going to work, right? But
before you start to evaluate from some other place of mind I want you to go through the facts that I am
going to mention below. It won’t take that long to read and finish this. Get your snack and a drink, if it’s
in a PET bottle then it’ll be great. You can look at it and maybe give a visible sign of appreciation for
going through all of these things that they have to so that they can be completely transformed into
So let’s get started with the words.
And again, I’d like to remind you that this is just an introduction to whatever the whole PET recycling business has got.
If you want to know more about this I’ll be mentioning some references at the end of this article. You
can go through those for further knowledge.
So, the first thing I need to do is to introduce this PET thing to you. PET is actually the abbreviation for
Polyethylene terephthalate which is actually Polyester, used for purposes other than cloth making. It is
the raw material from which most of the food and drink containers, without which, we can’t imagine
living, are made of. This evidently points towards the actual need to ‘recycle’ them and convert these bottles to yarns. Because they are all over the place and we are in a desperate need to get rid of them. Many scientific innovations have been rooted in the sole idea of recycling. And this one is recent. Okay, not that recent. The idea really came out first in 2014.
What actually is the idea?
It is pretty much clear that we are talking about ‘recycling’ the bottles, specifically the PET bottles and
making clothes of it. This doesn’t mean that we have to literally wear the trash bottles on us!!! The idea
is to put the bottles through various processes, purify them and transform them into something that
doesn’t even look like trash, even if we write TRASH on it!
What the PET bottle has to go through – The Process…
- We all have these eco-friendly trash cans out there in the city (even though we barely use them…we’ve got the lands, why trash cans??!!). The plastic wastes are collected from here and are taken to waste management units or MRFs(Material Recovery Facilities) where the first stage that is, the sorting, is done.
- The sorting out of PET containers etc. from the whole lot wastes including PVC (polyvinyl chloride), HDPE (high-density Poly Ethylene), LDPE (low-density Poly Ethylene), Glass, etc. The majority of the sorted out PET bottles will be the transparent bottles in which we get our water and other drinks.
- Then there are the blue, green, and amber-colored ones too, based on what the bottle had contained before getting thrown away.
- These bottles are then crushed, pressed, and piled into bales according to their colors. Then it is sent to the next stage of this process- separating, washing, and drying. In some places, separation is done before the bales are piled.
- The bottles are cleaned thoroughly without any remnants of substances the bottle was containing earlier.
- The stickers/labels and lids are all removed because they are possibly not a PET  product. It is important for the quality of the product to avoid the invasion by these foreign compounds.
- After cleaning they are dried and gotten rid of moisture completely.
The next step is my favorite one!
- It is the stage of shredding the bottles into small flakes. Why favorite…because I tend to enjoy the destruction of things!! And obviously not in a negative way, I must add… it’s just that a new phase is starting for this particular thing, so I have my interest in imagining how it goes with the new phase. And believe me, it goes very well. Watching the shredded plastic is going to be a very good sight. You’ll totally agree with me if you can ever get a chance to see the process.
- Now that our bottles have certainly lost the original form of being a bottle, we will call them shreds. The demand for these shreds varies with their color. The transparent ones are more in demand as they can be bleached further successfully.
- So these pretty shreds are then sent to a heat treatment. They are passed through metal pipes, under high temperature and pressure. This process allows the shreds to melt and take a whole new form of a thick liquid.
- This state-changing level is also another separating or purifying level. Yes, for those who are not content with the earlier washing and drying, here’s another stage of complete purification with the help of fire… fire purifies everything, you might’ve heard.
- It is not directly a FIRE, the shreds are melted with the heat, and with the help of a screen changer, it separates impurities from the molten liquid.
- Then comes the magnetic field treatment, also a purification step. In this stage, any presence of metal is detected and gotten rid of.
- This stage is kind of important because being completely rid of impurities is what we call the 100% pure quality. It’s like removing error factors from a required value.
- We might have, heard of the spinneret, if not it is a film having circular holes in it (68) of different sizes according to the requirements.
- So our purified molten PET ‘bottles’ or simply the molten liquid, is going to have to pass through these holes and come out as fine filaments (single filament being 5 times less fine than a human hair) which then entangles with 3-4 other filaments to form a thicker kind of filament that looks like our dental floss.
- These multiple filaments are then rolled on heavy metal rollers and are stretched.
- These stretched and rolled filaments can now be used to knit or weave fabric and then clothes or apparels or bedsheets or whatever you are ready to experiment on can be made from those fabrics.
- The filament here formed has an open end of 4Ne. – 14Ne. / .67Nm-23.6Nm .
ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO CONVERT BOTTLES TO YARNS
There is a whole lot to add to this. But I’m not doing it. I want you people to do your own research on it.
Currently, the process is expensive. There is another method to approach the PET bottles to yarns with. This method
includes the chemical approach and it’s very expensive to be handled. I just wanted you to know that there is
another method for this and also hope that you will be exploring its possibilities.
MECHANICAL PROCESS AS EXPLAINED ABOVE
On the other hand, the mechanical approach of converting bottles to yarns that I have explained above is much simpler and less expensive compared to the chemical-based one and utilizes less energy (approx. 8 times less) than producing the same
quantity of new products. So yeah this is something we need to hold on to because it enables the fashion industry to overcome the criticisms of overutilization of resources. We know how the industry runs and we also
know that the longing for new trends is never going to end as long as we, human beings are living on earth.
This article is meant to be an introductory informative source that contains the basic facts and information
about the innovative idea of recycling of PET bottles or Polyethylene terephthalate made bottles. The process
has not been mentioned as it is done in a scientific article with the whole molecular business explained. It’s
more like a discussion or an initial reading of this topic going by the surface of it so that the readers get
interested in this whole thing. And also to create an impression that this is a vast topic that requires more
research and is still at a stage of finding more possibilities. Going through this might help the readers to have
the fundamental idea on the topic before going into deep research on this.