Let me start by saying I am all about recycling and we have ONE Earth so doing the right thing matters. I recycle as much as I can everyday. This blog is not a DIG on recycling as a whole, but just the differences in Apparel – Organic vs. Recycled Polyester.
Lets start with some simple facts: Organic cottons uses no Chemicals while Polyester is petroleum based to create a man made synthetic fiber made exclusively with chemicals and oil. Polyester is harder to dye, using 3-4 times the chemicals and also is harder to break down/decompose.
The third largest pollutant in the oceans and rivers today comes from polyester in clothes and fabric – only behind plastic bottles and bags. There is an average of 1,800 polyester microfibers that wash down the drain every time polyester is laundered in a washing machine. Ultimately since these fibers get into the water supply they wind up in fish and ultimately our food supply we consume. Since cotton is a natural fiber it in can break down/decompose in as quickly as 5 years. [Usually 10-20] Polyester on the other hand is a minimum of 200-300 years.
If you know anything about Polyester, which is all the rage in performance fabric – all poly fabric has to be treated with a topical chemical to be able wick the ‘sweat’ and eliminate the odor. Once that washes off in 20-30 washes its properties are gone and it's like wearing a plastic bottle. Unfortunately, almost all recycled polyester cannot be treated so it has no performance qualities – meaning it is hot and does NOT breathe at all (And will stink if you perspire). Cotton on the other hand is a natural fiber so it is antimicrobial and doesn't retain any odors – and it breathes. Cotton actually keeps you cooler than polyester fabrics by an average of 4 degrees .
There are some fabrics that combine organic cotton with recycled fabric and they are improving. The problem is that recycled polyester is a “fatter” yarn so it’s difficult to get it soft, so some companies try to make it softer by adding cotton to it. Organic Cotton on the other hand will be softer to the touch and on the body creating a more comfortable product. It also is going to be better for your skin than petroleum based products.
Finally, the cost or organic cotton vs. recycled poly is very close and in some cases the organic cotton is more cost efficient. At the end of the day it’s your decision, but organic cotton certainly appears to be a better solution for the environment and for your body. Care what you wear!