Other commonly used synthetics include elastane, polypropylene, polyurethane, and acrylic.

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About

Elastane (also known as Spandex), is often found in products where some elasticity is needed and is known for its resilience and stretchiness. Polypropylene, used in fishing nets and plastic bags, is durable, lightweight and waterproof. Polyurethane, or PU, is commonly used in footwear and swimwear due to its flexibility, durability, and easiness to clean. Acrylic, seen as a cheaper alternative to wool, is crease-resistant and colorfast.

Challenges

Virgin synthetics can be hard to recycle.

Virgin synthetics are made from fossil-based resources. They are usually combined with other materials, which makes them difficult to recycle. It’s hard to separate elastane out, so most mechanical and chemical recyclers struggle to get any amount of it into their processes. The same applies to polypropylene–due to its low melting point, it will burn, rather than melt, into any other recyclable material. Recycling polyurethane presents challenges of its own, as it’s tricky to separate the PU coating from the base material it’s been applied to. There are also harmful chemicals that can be used in PU production, and DMF-free PU materials tend to be expensive. Though acrylic can be recycled mechanically, chemical recycling is not as yet seen as a commercially viable option.

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Solutions

We want to stop new fossil-based materials from entering the system.

We’re supporting the fashion and textiles industry in switching to fibers and materials that have better environmental and social outcomes than their conventional alternatives. Our goal is for synthetic fiber production to play its part in the wider move towards climate-friendly sourcing. We want to encourage to use of recycled or regenerative materials and let no new virgin fossil-fuel-based fibers enter the system.

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Resources

Dive deeper into synthetic fiber production

Get Involved

Take the next steps in your sourcing journey

Sign up for our Recycled Polyester Round Table

Lead the conversation on transitioning away from virgin polyester with other stakeholders along the supply chain.

Join the rPET Round Table
RCS & GRS

Our industry standard for synthetics

The Recycled Claim Standard and Global Recycled Standard are voluntary global standards that set the requirements for third-party certification of recycled input and chain of custody. Their aim is to increase the use of recycled materials.

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Materials Production Dashboard.

Get the latest data

You can access our latest data on production volume for other synthetics in our Materials Production Dashboard.

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Find the answers to common questions about synthetics

If you have a question, get in touch with us directly, and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Other Synthetic Fibers

Polyester

Polyester is the most widely used fiber worldwide.

Nylon

Nylon is a popular performance fiber.

Biosynthetics

Biosynthetics are made from natural, renewable resources.