Polyester is the most widely used fiber worldwide.

blue polyester fibers.

About

From performance to price, there are many reasons why brands rely on polyester. It accounts for over half of the global fiber market, according to our Preferred Fiber Materials Market Report 2021. Strong, durable, crease-resistant, and quick to dry, it makes up about 80% of all synthetic fiber use, and is used widely in clothing, accessories, home furnishings, and footwear.

Challenges

Polyester production comes at an environmental cost.

We know that virgin synthetics are damaging to our environment. Conventional polyester is made from fossil fuel-based chemicals, the primary raw material of which is crude oil. The commercial production of conventional polyester requires ethylene and ethylene glycol, as well as para-xylene, which is used to produce terephthalic acid (TPA). Together these chemicals produce polyethylene terephthalate, or PET.

white polyester fibers.
Solutions

We’re helping to lead the industry away from fossil-based polyester.

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 the use of recycled or regenerative materials and let no new virgin fossil-based fibers enter the system.

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Resources

Dive deeper into polyester 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

Join the Recycled Polyester Challenge

Commit to collective action to increase the uptake of recycled polyester across the industry.

Sign up to the rPET Challenge
RCS & GRS

Our industry standards for recycled fibers

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.

closeup of white polyester fibers.
Materials Production Dashboard

Get the latest data

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

plastic bottles lined up.
industrial building exterior.
Supplier Spotlight

Unifi’s REPREVE is a well-known name for fibers including polyester and nylon made from recycled sources including plastic bottles.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question not answered here, get in touch with us directly, and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

Why aren’t we focusing on phasing out synthetics completely?

Even with brands rethinking growth and slowing down production, there’s no other fiber available on the market today that could absorb the demand for polyester. We know this dependency won’t disappear overnight, so we’re committed to making sure synthetic fibers are used as responsibly as they can be.

What exactly is recycled polyester?

Recycled polyester comes from any polyester-based source that’s been mechanically or chemically recycled to create a material that matches the quality of virgin polyester as closely as possible.

What are some of the shortfalls of recycled polyester today?

Using recycled polyester is one way we can prevent new virgin fossil-based synthetics from entering the supply chain. We can use what we’ve already got in the system instead. But one of the shortfalls of some recycled polyester materials is their ability to be recycled over and over again. That’s why we see one key focus area in the future of synthetics as improving and scaling solutions like textile-to-textile recycling, as well as developing next-gen alternative materials.

Other synthetic fibers

Nylon is a popular performance fiber.

Biosynthetics are made from natural, renewable resources.

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