Do you know what happens to the plastic bottles after you dispose them? Yes, they are recycled to make a lot of things. Maybe, bottles again, plastic packets, containers and various other things. Or maybe, they are turned into a fabric you can wear. Strange is it? …Absolutely not. Plastic fabric or fleece as it is called is made from recycled plastic bottles. But, how is fleece made of plastic bottles? It is an extensive process, definitely but it is definitely worth it. Generally, it takes about 25 disposed plastic bottles to make enough polar fleeces for an adult to sew a piece of clothing out of it.
Fleece is very similar to wool. Rather, it has all the qualities of wool but it weighs much lighter. So next time if you plan to get warm clothing for yourself, let the sheep have their woolens. Go for polar fleece. Fleece is made from recycled plastic bottles and petroleum. And without a doubt, the material is highly flammable. But, being comfortable, light weight and water resistant, fleece is becoming very popular these days. To explain in easy words, polar fleece is made by forcing liquid plastic through tiny holes. When the plastic cools, they become threads, which are then used to make fabric.
In reality though, the process is a little complicated. Firstly, disposed plastic bottles are sorted out according to color. They are then sterilized and any foreign material is removed. These plastic bottles are then liquefied under high temperatures ranging more than 250oC. Terephthalic acid, which is derived from petroleum, is made to react with another petroleum derivative that is ethylene glycol under very high temperatures to create polymer. This is virgin plastic, which is then mixed with the liquefied plastic. When the mixture cools down, it becomes like syrup, which is then ready to be made into threads. The liquid is then forced through a metal disk with holes. It is called the spinneret. When the liquid comes in contact with air, it hardens to become thread like substances.
These threads, called tow are then wound around a warm spool. The tow is made to go through another process, called drawing. This process makes the polyester fleece strong and durable. The threads are made to go through a drawing machine, which pulls it to more than double its size. After the pulling, the tow goes through a process, where the threads are shrunk and the fabric gets a soft structure. These processes strengthen the molecular bonds in the fabric. The tow is now ready to be dried and inspected. As the threads pass through the drier, they get the texture very similar to that of wool. Each strand is inspected for uniformity and made into balls, very similar to what you see made from wool. The fabric is complete. What comes after this is dying and knitting. Knitting makes cloth out of the polyester fleece threads.
The cloth may go through an optional process of napping, which is also responsible for giving texture to what we know as velvet. The fabric may also be sprayed with a waterproof substance, but that is optional too. There you have it, your soda bottle turned into cloth. Scientific innovations have definitely changed the concept of fabric. Polyester fleece can warm you even in the most extreme conditions, which wool cannot.