From recycled pop bottles to fleece pullovers

Pop bottle by aurielaki, fleece pullover by dvarg \ Fotolia.com

Picture this: You’re out for an evening paddle on a clear, crisp night but it’s getting a little chilly, so you reach into your backpack and pull out 25 two-litre plastic bottles to wrap cosily around you. While this sounds far-fetched, it’s pretty much what happens when you pull on a polyester fleece sweater.

Synthetic fleece clothing has become increasingly popular since the 1990s, especially for outdoorsy and travelling types, because it’s light to pack and incredibly warm. Most polyester fleece currently on the market is made by Polartec and is recycled from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. The fabric is made in the USA and is used by popular clothing companies, including MEC and Patagonia, but has also been made into underwear for astronauts and woven into the lining of deep-sea diving suits.

But just how do manufacturers turn rigid plastic bottles into soft, warm material for outdoor and outer-space adventures?

Jessie O’Driscoll is a recent graduate from the Environment and Business program at the University of Waterloo. 

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