Recycled plastic – the fashion fabric of the future

A novel research project is looking at ways to recycle plastic bottles for use in the fashion industry in a bid to halt the landfill crisis.

Although recycled PET (Polyethylene terepthalate) has been used in a limited way in the fashion industry, Northumbria University PhD student Yukie Nakano is working to identify the barriers affecting the wider introduction of recycled textile products. Yukie, who is also a research assistant in the Centre for Design Research, is also experimenting with recycled plastic to produce new types of visually enhanced fabrics – mainly knitting yarns – to evaluate the potential market for their use as textiles.

Ex-fashion designer Yukie said: “PET is fairly easy to recycle and can be made into flakes which can then be spun as a yarn. It has been used in a limited way in the fashion industry but it never really took off.

“In the process of doing my research, I’ve discovered that companies are keen to incorporate recycled materials but there’s a lack of information about how to order supplies.”

Recycled plastic – the fashion fabric

Concern for the environment is one of the key drivers of this research project. PET plastic materials (such as those used for bottled water) are derived from crude oil and the rapid growth in their use, combined with a short life cycle, means they pose a serious problem ecologically. A lack of recycling facilities for plastic means that PET is a major contributor to the landfill crisis.

One of the ways of increasing use of recycled materials in the fashion industry is to enhance the look of the fabric and Yukie is developing methods to convert raw fibre into texturally rich yarn and producing new types of fabric with visual or tactile aesthetic qualities.

As part of her research Yukie will interview leading names in the world of fashion to inform them of her work and educate them in the crucial environmental role they can play by using recycled plastics in clothing.

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