A topic increasingly coming into focus and no longer ignored in any process: Sustainability. Whether in the implementation of concepts, in the design of supply chains, or material sourcing for workwear - sustainable solutions must be found. But what exactly constitutes sustainably sourcing the raw materials for workwear? Is it enough to check the materials - for example, plastics such as polyester - for origin and processing? What advantages and disadvantages are offered through sustainable materials?
The first step is to distinguish between products made from recycled materials, which can also be biodegradable, and products made from biobased materials. Biobased materials are plastics made from starch- and cellulose-rich plants such as corn or sugar cane. Biodegradable plastics, on the other hand, are plastics that decompose under certain conditions, leaving no CO2 or water behind. These include recycled polyester, which is made from starch, cellulose and sometimes petroleum.
The process to turn recycled plastic into material for workwear and protective equipment involves four steps.
Fabrics made from recycled polyester
Today, polyester is the largest single fiber group used for workwear worldwide. Recycled polyester yarn can be used to make the fabric and therefore more sustainable. The main source material of recycled polyester is plastic bottles. The advantage of using plastic bottles as a raw material is that sustainable recycling ensures thousands of tons less plastic waste in a line of clothing that would otherwise end up in landfills. Most importantly, the required performance characteristics of the clothing are retained as usual. In addition, there is a reduction in energy and water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions when recycled polyester is processed instead of pure polyester.
Advantages of sustainable workwear made from recycled polyester
A major advantage for employees wearing workwear made from recycled polyester is that the synthetic fiber absorbs virtually no moisture. Particularly in the case of physically demanding activities, perspiration is reliably wicked away to the outside. Polyester is also significantly more resistant and tear-resistant without being heavier than other fabrics. Also positive for workwear: polyester clothing retains its shape, is easy to care for and preserves the colors of the fabric well. If the workwear needs to offer additional protective functions (PPE), suitable material properties can also be added during production, such as flame retardancy. A combination of recycled polyester with other bio-based or biodegradable materials can also be useful for improved wearer comfort or to meet other criteria.
Production waste and regranulates that can be reused as recycled materials.
Recycled material from plastic bottles can be reprocessed to make it suitable for the production of workwear.
Improved environmental protection through sustainable workwear
Precisely because recycled polyester is in no way inferior to "normal" polyester in terms of quality, it offers a clear opportunity to do something for the environment. The advantages of recycled polyester drive a market in which 40 percent of plastic bottles in Europe are turned into fiber every year - equivalent to around 10 million plastic bottles per day. Especially for products that are designed for a longer service life - such as workwear, it makes sense to rely on sustainable materials and reduce its ecological footprint. Although materials sourcing is an important part of sustainable product life cycle, it remains important that resource-conserving production and care are also taken into account in the development of workwear.
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