Polyester is made from petroleum derived from crude oil, a finite non-renewable resource, accounting for 21% of the material we use. Since the 1990s, demand for polyester has grown at a constant rate of 7% every year. Because polyester is an important material in our collections, we aim to shift from virgin polyester sources to certified recycled sources. Through these actions, we can reduce the impact of extraction and processing of non-renewable resources.
Mapping the water footprint of polyester
In 2016, with C&A Foundation and Water Footprint Network we mapped the impacts of polyester and viscose to help us understand where to focus our efforts. While water use is relatively low for polyester compared to cotton, the water needed for the crude oil – used to make polyester – and the remaining industrial processes, are the phases that contribute most to polyester’s total water footprint: approximately 71 cubic metres per every tonne of polyester fibre produced.
Read the complete findings from the Water Footprint Network's assessment of polyester and viscose, compared to cotton here
Increasing the use of recycled polyester in our products
C&A China led the way in using recycled polyester in denim in the latter part of 2016. A total of 30,000 garments – a blend of 80% Better Cotton and 20% Global Recycled Standard (GRS)-certified polyester – were sold across the region. Most of the recycled polyester in our products is made of recycled PET bottles.
Defining the way forward for recycled polyester
We need to look at how we can take forward the work we have done on recycled polyester in our products over the past few years. We’re bringing products to market but there is work to do to ensure the commercial viability of these products before we can scale our efforts and develop a cohesive approach to replacing polyester with recycled sources. All recycled polyester will need to be certified to third party standards, such as GRS or the Recycled Content Certification (RCC).