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Sustainable Fabrics: What is rPET?

 Converting recycled plastic bottles into fabric saves energy and keeps plastic out of landfills. 

Converting recycled plastic bottles into fabric saves energy and keeps plastic out of landfills. 

In 2015, as we were starting to make plans for Cause I Run, I participated in a startup accelerator for sustainable fashion startups, Factory45. At the time, I needed a road map for things like: how to find fabrics, how to work with manufacturing facilities, and the like. 

When I learned that it was possible to create athletic wear with recycled and sustainable materials, I was pleasantly surprised. Then, a little shocked – if this was true, why weren't major brands using these materials, and if they were, why wasn't I hearing about it?

I am already an environmentally conscious person, but I decided then to dig deep and commit to sourcing sustainable fabrics for Cause I Run's activewear. Right now, our pieces are mostly made from fabrics that are at least 50 percent recycled polyester; two of our pieces specifically are made from rPET – recycled polyester made from plastic bottles. 

We started to get the word out about Cause I Run, and a friend of the founder did some research on rPET and why it's valuable. Here's her Facebook post about it, shared here with permission:

So what does it mean to use recycled materials in the production of the Cause I Run line? Let’s take a look!

Plastic water bottles are made using PET (polyethylene terephthalate 😎), which is chemically the same as polyester. The only difference is that the plastic is either formed into a bottle or into a fiber. However, creating virgin polyester and water bottles consumes a lot of energy.

Recycled water bottles can be used to create a recycled polyester fabric, identical to a virgin polyester, using about half the energy. The fabric is durable, stretchy, and feels like a true performance fabric. Cool, right?

Wait, it gets cooler! Each yard of recycled PET (rPET) fabric is made of roughly eighteen 16-ounce plastic bottles. The Cause I Run line uses between 0.5-1.5 yards of rPET per item, so you could be saving 9-27 bottles worth of plastic from ending up in a landfill.

Looking good while doing good! #causeirun #whatmovesyou
— Gemma Robbins

Thanks, Gemma, for the primer on rPET! Want to learn more? Check out our post on ShopEthica, The Athlete's Guide to Sustainable Fabrics.