Updated by Nichelle Mesa
After all the bottles are sorted into their respective categories (#1, #2, #3, and #4 plastic), they are sent to their processing centers. Our leggings and bras are made from #1 plastic - or Polyethylene Terephthalate, also known as PET. Fun fact: All polyester (recycled or not) is derived from this type of plastic.
Our bottles are sorted, cleaned, and chipped into feedstock at the center. Our processing center is pretty special. It’s owned by a respected Taiwanese family that has been at the forefront of the recycling industry for decades.
We visited the facility, and were blown away by what we learned. It’s not only trusted by the Taiwanese government, it’s certified by them too. Being government certified means more than just having a certificate hanging on your wall saying that you can process plastic to resell. It means security measures are implemented and each facility is subject to accountability for how much plastic is taken in and how much is shipped out.
Why is being certified so important? It is a well-known fact in the recycling industry that in places like China with loose certifications and accountability standards, many will lie about where they get their plastic. It’s actually much easier to buy new plastic water bottles and recycle them, than to collect and sort post-consumer bottles. Often, recyclers will recycle brand new bottles as post-consumer bottles and sell them at a higher price to brands that are trying to use recyclables in their products. Gross.
At our facility, we have watched as bales of post-consumer bottles from all over Taiwan arrive at the facility. Each bale is weighed and logged. From there the bales go into a steam wash to remove caps and labels. After the caps and labels are removed, the bottles are sorted by color. We use the clear bottles for our fibers, and the colored bottles get sent elsewhere to be processed for myriad other uses.
Once the color sorting is done, we shred them down into tiny chips, wash them again, and place them in transport bags to be shipped to our manufacturing facility. Each bag is weighed and logged again to make sure that the output is equal to input. This ensures that we have an accurate count for how many bottles were used and can verify that they were the same bottles processed at arrival.
As soon as our spinning mill takes the delivery of our raw PET chips from the recycling center, the bags of chips go through another wash, and are dried. Once they dry, the chips get sent to storage silos and are sent to a machine where the chips get heated up and extruded into long thick spaghetti like strands. From there, they are chipped down to little pellets.
The pellets then get reheated and are extruded again to make superfine threads that are spun together into our yarn. From there they are spun onto large bobbins, packaged, and sent to our knitting factory.
Our knitting process is unlike almost anything in the industry.
Our fabric is softer and more stable than your standard single-jersey. This process requires time and precision, which means each of our knitting machines can only produce about 100 pairs-worth of fabric in a 24-hour period.