Saturday, March 13, 2010
A Look Beyond The Price Tag For Fabrics For Your Home
Taking a look beyond the price tag of the very popular polymer, polyester, that's in all our lives, may prod you into making some lifestyle changes that will protect your health, the health of your family and that of the planet.
Polyester is very cheap to produce but not cheap for your health or the health of the planet. There are many types of polyester. The one used to make polyeser textiles, and oddly enough used to make plastic bottles too, is PET or polyethylene terephthalate.
The production of PET requires lots and lots of oil, along with a heavy metal, antimony. Antimony is an abundant metal found in the earth’s crust. Antimony trioxide is used a lot for its flame retardant properties. It’s also used as a catalyst in the production process of PET.
Antimony is toxic and has carcinogenic risks associated with it. Even at low levels, as found in drinking water, antimony is suspected of causing endocrine disruption. Not too long ago, it’s been established that PET leaches from plastic bottles, too. Drink anyone?
When it is used in the polyester production, antimony does get becomes locked to the polymer and in this locked state, doesn’t present a problem to living things, like ourselves.
The problem comes in the dying process. The high temperatures required for the dying process allow antimony to be released and leaches into the wastewater.
Cleaning up the wastewater takes another technology which isn’t always affordable or just plain ignored. Even if clean up is done, the remainder is a toxic sludge which now has to be dealt with. The sludge gets incinerated, creating plumes of toxic air or put into landfill.
It never seems to end.
There are a few points to clear up. Most of the many million barrels of oil used to create polyester is used for the textile, not for making the plastic bottles.
Also, polyester is sometimes thought of being ‘green’ because it can be recycled…but can it?
Polyester production is very energy intensive thus producing greenhouse gases. Recycling polyester requires more energy and adds to the emission of more greenhouse gases.
The toxins in the polyester production process don’t just disappear after a product is made. When polyester is recycled, antimony trioxide is released into the air, adding to the greenhouse gases.
Polyester can only be recycled only so many times before it looses its value, and although it postpones an early end in the landfill, it eventually ends up there. While this is helpful, for sure, we really want a better way with a cradle to cradle goal for products.
With only 30% of plastic bottles being recycled of more than 40 billion produced each year, the other 70% goes directly into landfill. There are difficulties within recycling process of PET, as well.
There are alternatives, believe it or not, and it’s a good thing, too. After all, no one wants these toxins in their environment or drinking water. We certainly don’t want to sit on toxic fabrics or have them on our backs either.
There are companies that will take back your worn polyester clothing to recycle and churn into new products, and there are newer products that begin by being eco friendly in their production. They have the added advantage of being able to be recycled indefinitely. Very cool.
Learn more about greening your home, particularly where you lay your head down to rest. In the meantime, when you launder polyester, switch from hot water to cold and line dry.
P.S. Here are just a few names you may recognize, but did you know they were PET products? Now you do. Dacron, Tergal, Trevira, Mylar
Blue Planet Run: The Race to Provide Safe Drinking Water to the World