Ecotextile News interviewed Dr Pieterjan Van Uytvanck, a consultant with PCI Wood Mackenzie, about the current sustainability trends and issues in polyester production.
Q. Could you tell us what you believe to be the key sustainability trends and issues right now for polyester production for the apparel industry?
A. The key environmental issues for polyester in the apparel industry production chain are carbon emissions and waste. There are pressures across many industries to reduce their carbon emissions and the Paris Agreement, drawn up at COP21, has attracted even more attention to the issue.
Waste includes the discharge of hazardous chemicals in production, as well as polyester waste being sent to landfill after its use. Much attention has been drawn to the circular economy concept with the publication of industry reports and the developing of legislation within Europe. There has also been research into microplastics, especially in the marine environment; however, polyester may not be the largest threat when compared with some other polymers, due to its better long-term biodegradability.
While there are other equally important issues, such as water, energy, and land use, we've seen the largest focus, both in the media and from companies, on carbon and waste. At this point, I've only mentioned the environmental issues as our research to date has concentrated on that. However, there are also social issues within the fibres industry, to name only one, the unfair treatment of garment workers which has been well documented.