How We Turn Plastic Bottles into Clothing
Polyester, the material used in most clothing made from non-natural fibers, is a type of plastic. So as a society, we’ve already been “wearing” plastic for a few decades.
Here at Storm Creek, it’s our focus on sustainability that had us look to recycled plastic water bottles for the source of our polyester yarns instead of the traditional “virgin” sources.
“Today, 69% of all clothes are already made up of synthetic fibers, with polyester making up 64% of all fiber production,” says the article Recycled Plastics are Transforming the Clothing Industry.
“According to a 2020 report by Textile Exchange, only 14% of all polyester production comes from recycled inputs—predominantly used plastic bottles…[The] industry recognizes that valuable plastics should remain in the economy and not in the environment.”
Storm Creek, along with other companies like us, is spearheading the move within the apparel industry to increase the percentage of recycled inputs in our products.
According to EarthDay.org, “Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year.” That’s 50,000,000,000. The vast majority of these will end up in landfills somewhere. We want to help change that. By doing our part, we have kept 24 million water bottles from becoming waste.
Instead, we turn them into clothing:
The Type of Plastic We Use for Polyester Yarn
We use recycled PET plastic in our apparel. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, the plastic labeled #1. It’s used for single-use bottles that contain things like water, soft drinks, fruit juices, salad dressings, peanut butter and other foods.
We target PET plastic from used water bottles because, as Storm Creek President Doug Jackson explains, “It’s easy to chop the bottles into chips, clean them, and melt the chips into beads that can be worked with to spin yarn. It’s a very manageable process. Over time, there are always new technologies that come in, but because plastic water bottle waste is such a global problem, this is where the companies are focusing right now.”
Here at Storm Creek all our styles have been eco-made since June 2020. The number of recycled water bottles we use for each item depends on the individual product.
For example, our men’s Activator Polo used the equivalent of 13 recycled bottles.
Our women’s Overachiever Jacket uses 26 recycled bottles.
Why our Recycled Plastic Apparel is Safe to Wear
Some people have valid concerns that “wearing” plastic means toxins can leach in through our skin.
Because of these concerns, Storm Creek is committed to transparency about the chemicals used in producing and packaging our apparel. We avoid any product that could be considered a health concern. That ensures our garments are non-toxic and safe to wear.
We ensure the mills we work with are Bluesign® or Oeko-Tex® certified. These certified mills focus on sustainable practices, water conservation and environmentally-safe chemicals. The factories we use are certified by the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) program and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) program.
Continued Innovation in the Textile Industry
“The textile industry is very scientific with a lot of technology going into it,” says Doug. “Scientists working in this area are continually discovering new ways to do things, to use less water, to be more environmentally friendly.
“We try to visit the factories once a quarter. We always learn something new and that helps us make better decisions.
“Japan is probably the most sophisticated when it comes to fabrics. Japan, Taiwan and Korea are at the forefront of all the changes that happen in the textile market,” says Doug. “Taiwan is where most of the buying offices are. We have a really good source there that we’ve worked with since 1990.”
Nylon, polyester and cotton are the main three materials currently used in the clothing industry. While cotton is a natural fiber, processing it uses a huge amount of water, which is problematic. Like polyester, the industry is also working on ways to recycle nylon from items like carpeting and used fish nets.
Whenever we can, we bring these innovations into our products. An example is the heathered yarns we’ve been using in some of our garments. Until just recently, recycled heathered yarns weren’t available. Our heathered garments have been a 45-45-10 blend (recycled, non-recycled/virgin and spandex).
But we just learned from our overseas sources that recycled heathered yarns are now being produced, so that’s what we’ll start using for these products. Instead of being 45-45-10, we’ll be able to make them with a 90-10 ratio.
It can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months to incorporate these new recycled technologies into our products, so we’re in constant innovation mode.
When we say we’re “Seekers of Better” that’s what we mean: We’re always seeking to move towards better products and better sustainability.