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Recycled Polyester Tops Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber Report

Synthetics and man-made cellulosic fibers were used in $201 billion worth of apparel in 2013, a 2 percent increase from the previous year, and an indicator of where the Textile Exchange (TE) plans to focus its attention, according to the nonprofit’s inaugural Preferred Fibers Market Report.

In 2013, the global fiber market weighed in at 85.4 million tons, which consisted of 61.8% synthetics, 30.2% cotton, 6.8% man-made cellulosics and 1.3% wool.

Most textile-based companies recognize the need to improve the entire textile supply chain to create more sustainable products, according to the report, noting that the shift toward these products necessitates the move to “preferred” or more sustainable fibers. TE describes “preferred” fibers as the better ecologically and socially progressive option.

“There is huge opportunity for improvement in how we select and make and/or grow fibers, especially those we use the most,” the report noted.

In the preferred fiber market, the study found a growing demand for recycled polyester (PET) due to general market growth. In 2013, Nike was the top user of PET, followed by Puma, H&M, G-Star Raw and Prana.

The leading resin suppliers estimate a 32 percent global increase of PET in 2014, with FENC (Far Eastern New Century) Asia projected to be the top producer. Market growth in China alone is expected to reach seven million tons of PET fibers by 2015, according to the report.

Additionally, as the industry moves toward more performance materials, TE expects to see more use of dyeable polypropylene (PP), which is known for its water-repelling properties.

In other market trends, the report found that Lenzing Fibers Inc. is increasing all cellulosic capacity to one million in 2014, spurred by population growth, increased incomes and the move to more sustainable products. Eileen Fisher, Gap Inc., Uniqlo and Inditex were named some of the top users of Tencel by Lenzing in 2013.

TE’s mission for more eco-friendly manufacturing appears to be resonating with the industry as the report found that 72 percent of respondents now have a corporate sustainability vision, and 52 percent have a material sustainability strategy.

44 percent go even further, having a target date for incorporating preferred fibers. Dates range from 2016 to 2020, the report noted.