• Caitlin Kennedy

How to turn a plastic bottle into a ski jacket

A look at the process behind how Repreve Fabrics (used by the likes of Planks), recycle waste plastics into fabrics

Living in the mountains, it is in some ways easier to forget about the climate crisis. We exist at a disconnect from the rest of the world and are surrounded by what at first glance seems like pristine nature. But of course, it is not. The mountains within which our village is nestled have been scraped and scragged, with trees torn down and rivers re-routed. As people whose existence here is requisite on continued snowfall, it’s important that we take stock and consider how we can do better, collectively and individually to alleviate the strain on the planet. That’s why we’re partnering up with Planks to shine a light every fortnight on a company or person who are really going all out on the quest to be more sustainable.

We thought we’d kick things off by taking a look at REPREVE, the incredible fabric made from post consumer plastic bottles. The recycled yarn then takes on a second life as a garment made by a myriad of different companies, including, of course, Planks. Unifi (the

company that makes REPREVE and other recycled yarns), has prevented over 18 and a half billion plastic bottles from entering landfill since their operation began back in 2007.

So how do you turn a plastic bottle into a coat? And how is it possible to end up with an array of different materials requiring totally different properties? Well, first off, you shred those bottles harder than Woodsy shreds on a pow day. This process is carried out at the REPREVE Bottle Processing Center in North Carolina, which can handle around 2.2 billion bottles a year. The resulting flakes are then melted down into tiny pellets which are melted again, then filtered and spun into threads. Like spaghetti.

The next stage of the materials’ life depends what it will be needed for. Swimwear, for instance, requires a mixture of classic REPREVE yarns, with recycled nylon to allow it to stretch. Technical outerwear, such as Planks Shell Jackets, are mixed with other fibres to give them excellent waterproofing capabilities.

And in a move that has allowed them to close the manufacturing loop, the REPREVE Textile Takeback helps reduce and repurpose scraps, providing the industry with a new way to cut out waste and move toward a zero waste goal for qualifying fabrics. The program recycles REPREVE based fabrics into REPREVE Takeback fibers. With the help of some key environmentally responsible brands, the REPREVE Textile Takeback program recently surpassed three million pounds in takeback fabric.

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