Why Recycled Polyester?
An important fiber in our line, polyester allows us to build lightweight materials that dry quickly and can be used in a variety of applications, including trail-running tops and yoga leggings. Polyester also blends well with natural fabrics like cotton. But virgin polyester is derived from petroleum, which comes at a high environmental cost. Recycled polyester, which has been available since the early 1990s, is now similarly priced to its virgin counterparts. Using recycled polyester reduces our reliance on petroleum as a source of raw materials, utilizes waste and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing. Plus, by using recycled polyester, we can promote new recycling streams for polyester clothing that is no longer wearable.
Where We Are
Patagonia began making recycled polyester from plastic soda bottles back in 1993—the first outdoor- clothing manufacturer to transform trash into fleece. Almost 30 years later, they’ve incorporated recycled polyester into our hard shells, boardshorts, fleece and Capilene® baselayers, and overall have only 13% virgin polyester left in their line. We’re actively working to convert that remaining amount to recycled material. When sourcing recycled materials, they ask our supply chain partners to be certified to approved third-party standards, including the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) and Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certifications. These standards ensure robust chain of custody practices are in place and reduce the risks of unauthorized mixing or swapping of materials. Patagonia is committed to achieving RCS or GRS certification at 100% of our eligible fabric mills by 2025. They're also investing in secondary waste streams beyond plastic bottles, including post-consumer textiles through the chemical recycling program JEPLAN, which helps address our own waste. To address harder-to-recycle materials, they work with Coats, a UK-based supply chain partner that turns cafeteria trays and other pigmented plastics—which are more difficult to recycle than clear types—into recycled polyester. This season, they’ve also introduced new products that contain Prevented Ocean Plastic™ recycled polyester, which is OceanCycle®-certified and sourced from plastic bottles collected from coastlines that lack waste management infrastructure. Having a third-party certification like OceanCycle gives us trust and transparency in the recycling system, and the confidence that waste management networks can benefit from community improvement programs. For the Spring 2023 season, 87% of the polyester fabrics are made with recycled polyester. As a result of not using virgin polyester, we avoided emitting more than 4.4 million pounds of CO₂e into the atmosphere.
Patagonia is looking to the next generation of potentially recyclable materials. Long-term, they’re also considering more chemical-recycling technologies that might allow us to reuse recycled garments and get us closer to a “circular” manufacturing process.