Synthetic fibbers are the most popular fibers in the world.
It’s estimated that synthetics account for about 63%2 of world production versus 37% for natural fibers. 82%2 of the synthetic fibers are made from polyester, and the polyester most often used in textiles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
The majority of the world’s PET production – about 60% – is used to make fibbers for textiles; about 30% is used to make bottles.
Many internet sites share this information saying that “70 million barrels” are needed just to produce the virgin polyester used in fabrics. We did some research and this information comes from an article published in 20091. An update could be done based on actual figures.
Virgin polyester is made through a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum (from crude oil), air and water.
In 2019 :
34,74 billion barrels of oil were produced [95,2 million barrel per day].
According to A New Textiles Economy Report 20173, 4% of total oil production is used to produce plastics, of which 25% becomes textiles. Producing plastic-based fibres for textiles uses an estimated 347 million barrels6 of oil every year. Plastic-based fibres are polyester (83%), polyamide (8%), other synthetics (9%)2.
That means that approximatively 288 million barrels are needed today just to produce virgin polyester. As a weight of a barrel is 0,136 ton, 39 million tonnes of virgin polyester are yearly produced if we apply these assumptions.
But in fact, a volume of 57.7 million tonnes2 of polyester is yearly produced. In 1980, the volume of global polyester production was 5.2 million tons and increased by a factor of 10 in 40 years.
As 1 ton of polyester needs 1,1 ton of oil, it means that 63.5 million tonnes of oil or 467 million barrels are extracted…
So the range is between 288 million and 467 million barrels. In any case and regardless the chosen assumptions, that’s too many million barrels !
In 2020 :
Recycled polyester represents only 14%2 of the annual polyester fiber production. That means 86% of new virgin polyester is still annually produced.
Recycled polyester rPET is a more environmentally sustainable solution to virgin polyester:
– it uses between 30 and 50 per cent less energy, reduces the need for primary extraction of crude oil and cuts the amount disposed in landfill.
– it does not need any ton of oil (1 tonne of virgin polyester needs 1,1 tonne of oil3).
Less extracted oil, more recycled plastic bottles, less bottles in the oceans, more pressure put on big brands to integrate recycled polyester in their collection, one step more to creating a virtuous circle.
Our recycled polyester is a mechanically recycled polyester from post consumed bottles.
Together we need to continue the move and accelerate the transition.
That’s why we only offer fabrics whose polyester is 100% recycled polyester rPET.
Under 100% we would have only interested in assuaging our conscience.
(2) Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2020, Textile Exchange, 2020
(3) A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashions’s Future, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017