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TEXAS – The use of recycled polyester by the global apparel industry appears to have plateaued according to the latest annual ‘Preferred Fibres and Materials’ report by US consultants, Textile Exchange. The report shows the market share of recycled polyester increased from around 9 per cent of the world PET fibre production in 2009 to around 14 per cent in 2019. Compared to 13.8 percent in 2018, this is a tiny increase after the short-term decline in the global rPET market share in 2018.

The report shows polyester continues to be the most widely used fibre with annual production of around 57.7 million mt giving it a share of approximately 52 per cent of the global fibre production in 2019. Cotton has around 23 per cent of the global market while polyamide, the second most used synthetic fibre, accounts for around 5 per cent of the market. Wool has a market share of around 1 per cent, with a global production volume of a little over 1 million mt.

“While the share of recycled polyester is increasing and reached 14 per cent in 2019, it is not yet advancing at the speed and scale required,” says the report. “Low prices of fossil-based polyester create a challenging market environment for recycled and biobased polyester. As the fibre with the largest market share, the impact scale of polyester is enormous. While using plastic bottles as feedstock is a good start – and most recycled polyester is currently based on plastic bottles – we need to move towards textile-to-textile recycling and urgently improve social conditions in waste collection and recycling.”

A number of global brands have made major commitments to using greater amounts of recycled polyester in their collections moving forwards. These include Adidas which aims to replace all virgin polyester with recycled polyester in all adidas and Reebok products, “where a solution exists,” by 2024.

Inditex has committed that 100 per cent of the polyester used in Inditex products will be recycled or will come from “more sustainable sources” in 2025.

Ted Baker has the target to use 100 percent recycled polyester by 2030.

In 2017, Textile Exchange created a Recycled Polyester Commitment to encourage brands and retailers to publicly commit to accelerating their use of recycled polyester by 25 per cent by 2020.

This aggregate target was reached two years early, in 2018, when the combined rPET use of the commitment signatories grew by 36 per cent. The 13 signatories of the original rPET Commitment that have disclosed their progress since 2017 reported an uptake of 176,513 mt recycled polyester fibre in 2019 (based on 2018 data), reflecting a 208 per cent increase over the two previous years.

Editor’s note: actually, 59 textile, apparel and retail companies committed to increase their use of rPET by at least 25 per cent by 2020 as part of the above rPET commitment. So what happened to the other 46? We have asked Textile Exchange and will update accordingly.

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