Evaluating the contents of your recycling bin can lead to all kinds of questions. Like, how did I eat a whole tub of hummus in two days? Or, should I be concerned about my La Croix consumption? Or, ouch…those beer bottles explain my pounding headache. But have you ever looked inside your bin and wondered what happens to all of those containers from there? Us either. But we’re going to tell you, because 3-4 of those empty plastic bottles or containers make our sustainable shoes and a lot of other products you probably didn’t know about!
Shoes made from recycled plastic
Now, we don’t want you to think SAOLA recycled shoes are garbage. Quite the contrary. They’re very comfortable and stylish, and if we didn’t tell you they were made from recycled plastic you’d never know it.
There are actually all kinds of high-quality apparel and gear that are made with recycled plastic. Even the world of high fashion has started using it. Reason being, is that polyester and plastic bottles are made from the same substance - polyethylene terephthalate. Don’t worry – we can’t pronounce it either. That’s why everyone just refers to it as PET. But bottom line, manufacturer’s can create the same fabrics that they always have by utilizing recycled plastic.
From plastic bottles to shoes
Here’s how that plastic bottle from your bin is made into your apparel:
- Once your recyclables make it to the recycling center, they are sorted – clear plastic bottles are the chosen ones for this process because they are able to be died into other colors down the line. All plastic tops are sorted out and any labels are removed via steam before moving on to the next phase.
- Then all the clear plastic bottles are thoroughly cleaned and put through a shredding machine, where they’re cut into flakes about the size of a fingernail. This is the start of the break-down-to-rebuild process. The flakes are put on a conveyor belt and once again cleaned, as flake purity is central to preserving the value of the reclaimed plastic. The recycled PET is then dried before reintroduction as a manufacturing material or before further processing.
- After that, those shredded flakes are broken down even more, to where they look like little perfectly shaped plastic pellets. Pelletizing the plastic provides a uniform-sized material that can be reintroduced into the manufacturing process.
- Those pellets are then melted down and extracted through tiny holes that turn them into filaments. (Isn’t science crazy!?) The fibers are then spun into thread, which is then woven to make fabric, and there you have it.
Recycled plastic bottle to reduce wastes
There are still way less places that textile manufacturers can buy recycled PET compared to synthetic materials and it’s certainly more expensive. And for a long time, the manufacturing mentality was make more stuff, and make it as cheap as possible, so brands weren’t using it.
So why should you care about using recycled PET instead of polyester? Because even though traditional polyester offers a lot of benefits – it’s stretchy, soft, and breathable – it’s a petroleum-based product. So every time a shirt or pair of shoes is made with raw polyester, it’s using more oil and creating more damage to our environment. Recycled PET looks, feels, and performs the same way as its crude oil counterpart, while also keeping those bottles out of our landfills. It’s really a win-win and let us produce sustainable shoes!
So if you ever find yourself second guessing if recycling really matters, the answer is an emphatic yes. It does. And now that you know about it, keep an eye out for it in other stuff you buy! Remember the old “Reduce Reuse Recycle” song? That’s what we’re talkin’ about.
Thank you for joining the movement for cleaner manufacturing and a healthy planet. Together, we can #MAKEANIMPACT.