Many athletes prefer clothing made with moisture-wicking technology because it is more suitable for performance. Synthetic materials such as polyester, spandex, and nylon provide these benefits, while organic materials such as cotton and wool do not. Because this desirable feature is exclusive to synthetic fibers, about 60% of materials used in textile production is for synthetic clothing. Other benefits of synthetic materials include durability, stretching, and wear.
The most popular of the synthetics is polyester. Polyester was created in the 1930s, officially commercialized in the 1940s. There are multiple processes to create this synthetic fiber, one being polymerization. Polymerization is a chemical reaction that involves a petroleum-based organic compound, glycol ethylene. It is reacted with dimethyl terephthalate to form polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is ultimately used to create polyester.
As companies and governments are switching to more sustainable practices, people are becoming more aware of what they are consuming. Polyester is harmful to the environment because it is petroleum-based. The chemical reactions involved in polymerization and other fiber making processes involve water, petroleum, coal, and air. Every year, about 70 million barrels of oil are used exclusively for making polyester. The extreme temperature this fabric is heated to, along with the energy used in its inception, contributes significantly to CO2 emissions.
Recycled Polyester vs. Polyester
Because polyester is not sustainable, athletic clothing companies are seeking alternatives to polyester in order to become more sustainable. At Anova Athletica, we use recycled synthetic materials such as recycled polyester. Recycled polyester reduces GHG emissions by 30%, consumes 45% less energy, and uses 20% less water compared to its virgin counterpart.
Water bottles that would otherwise be in our landfills or ocean are melted and repurposed into recycled polyester. It is more environmentally friendly because it is not reliant on petroleum. Since water bottles are already a form of PET, the same component of polyester, they can be turned and spun into clothing fibers. Our Anova Velocity performance shirts are made of 100% recycled polyester.
Changing to Recycled Polyester
Although recycled polyester is a suitable alternative to polyester, the demand for virgin synthetics is growing at an increasing rate. Becoming more aware of athletic clothing materials and making the conscious effort to choose recycled content over virgin synthetics will promote more sustainability in the clothing industry.