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Your Next Pair of Leggings Could Be Made From Plastic Bottles

Eastman Chemical Company, a former subsidiary of Kodak, is known for its chemical and material and fiber innovations for use in the production of everyday goods. Last week, the company introduced Avra, a new performance fiber made entirely from recycled post-consumer plastic bottles.

The recycled Avra fibers will offer quick-drying times and wicking capabilities not unlike the company’s previous virgin polyester-based offerings, Eastman said in a statement. Through a proprietary spinning technology, Avra fibers are imbued with moisture and thermal management features that help the fibers dry up to 50 percent faster than conventional polyester fabrics on the market. Crafted for wear during rigorous exercise, the highly flexible fibers are designed for softness and comfort.

“The vision for the Eastman Textiles platform is that all innovation will be sustainable,” explained Ruth Farrell, director of marketing for textiles at Eastman.

“We are excited to be one of the first to offer high-performance fibers made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET at a time when the active wear and outdoor industries are under pressure to move to a more circular way of operating,” she added.

Farrell explained that the use of plastic bottles in particular was important because giving them a “second life” would ensure that they didn’t “end up littering our oceans or trails.”

She also referenced consumer interest in contributing to a circular economy in which resources are recycled and upcycled once they’ve fulfilled their intended purpose. The new material will debut officially at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Denver on June 18.

The new fiber is one of the company’s latest attempts to bring circularity to the mainstream. In March, Eastman announced plans to pursue the creation of an advanced circular recycling technology for polyester waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods. Material waste often ends up in landfills or waterways, the company said.

Eastman’s circular recycling technology relies on a process called methanolysis, which the company has worked to develop at a commercial scale over 30 years. The technique enables the breakdown of polyester products into their rudimentary polymer building blocks, which are then used to form new polyester-based polymers for new materials.

Polyester has presented the fashion industry with a conundrum, as the cheap, widely-used material often finds its way into the trash and does not biodegrade. Using methanolysis, even low-quality polyester waste can be diverted from the dump, and be recycled into high-quality polyester with a multitude of end-uses.

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