Is polyester a non-biodegradable substance

Polyester is one of the most widely used materials in the fashion industry. The fabric is used in many different articles in all categories from outerwear to sporting goods and underwear. You have probably already noticed for yourself that polyester is very popular, also because it is cheap to produce and can be used as a substitute for more expensive, high-quality materials.

But what is it that makes polyester? An oil-based substance. Nevertheless, the substance can also have positive aspects. In today's blog we compare the pros and cons. So you can decide for yourself what to look for when buying your clothes.

What is polyester

Polyester is the generic term for synthetic polymers that are found in many different types of textiles. The basis is the thermoplastic polyethylene terephthalate which you may know as PET. Every known material from which plastic bottles, plastic bags and clothing are made!

How is polyester made?

Polyester results from a chemical reaction between ethylene glycol, an oil-based substance, and terephthalic acid. This creates a liquid plastic that is pressed into filaments and then spun into yarn. This video shows the process very clearly (including "party music").

Advantages of polyester:

  • Polyester does not crease and therefore does not have to be ironed, this saves electricity.
  • Polyester is easy to clean and does not need to be hot washed.
  • Polyester is not biodegradable, but nowadays it can easily be recycled to the same quality.

Given that much of a garment's polluting effect occurs after it is purchased, polyester could theoretically be quite durable.

Disadvantage:

  • The raw material for polyester is oil, an extremely environmentally and climate-damaging resource that is not available indefinitely on this planet.
  • Polyester is difficult to dye and therefore requires a lot of water and chemicals (although there are now dyeing processes without water).
  • Recycled polyester still has negative aspects in terms of sustainability because polyester releases microplastics when it is washed. These microplastic particles are extremely small and have a huge impact on the environment, animals and even our bodies (for more information see our blog post on microplastics)

All in all, the disadvantages for polyester currently outweigh the advantages. The material has to become much more sustainable in the further production process before it can justify the use of oil. Fast fashion has also ensured that the quality of polyester is getting lower and lower. The material wears out and fades quickly and is thus sorted out faster. At the moment we cannot consider polyester as a sustainable material, but maybe in a few years it will be different: stricter regulation (and control) in the oil industry, the use of sustainable dyeing processes and a stronger focus on quality would make the fabric more durable. We hope that this will happen quickly because, according to Greenpeace, the use of polyester in clothing will double by 2030.