Byline: Michael McNamara

NEW YORK--Recycled polyester continues to move ahead.
Dyersburg Fabrics, Dyersburg, Tenn., has become the first mill to produce a fleece fabric made entirely from the polyester from used plastic soda bottles, currently the source for all recycled polyester.
Other fabrics using recycled polyester blend it with virgin polyester or cotton.
Dyersburg's new product is part of its ECO fleece product line, which features Wellman Inc.'s Fortrel EcoSpun.
The double-sided fleece is available in weights ranging from 5.9 ounces to 11 ounces. The fabrics are set to be shipped in late October.
Dyersburg, in partnership with Wellman and Patagonia, a maker of outdoor apparel, was the first to introduce fleece fabrics made from recycled fibers in April 1993. That product was made from 80 percent EcoSpun and 20 percent virgin polyester.
In August 1993, Dyersburg increased the recycled content to 89 percent. It has stayed that way until the newest fabric.
"We've been trying to get the product to this stage since we first started working with Wellman," said Gene McBride, president of Dyersburg, who unveiled the fabric last Thursday at a briefing at the Central Park Zoo here. The zoo location was used to underscore the environmental message of recycled polyester.
"We've finally gotten it to the point where it has the same feel as virgin polyester," he said.
The first recycled product from Dyersburg was 3.5 deniers-per-filament (dpf). The 100 percent version is 2.25 dpf, approximating the fineness of the virgin polyester, which falls anywhere from 1.2 to 1.5 dpf, McBride said.
The Dyersburg fabric also has earned the recognition of Scientific Certifications System, the nation's leading independent evaluator of environmental claims. SCS certifies that manufacturers accurately state the recycled content of their products.
"This breakthrough reinforces Dyersburg's position as the clear leader in the post-consumer recycled fleece industry," McBride said. Dyersburg's chief competitor in the fleece business, Malden Mills Industries of Lawrence, Mass., however, makes a similar claim.
"Our number-one claim has been that we will try to consume as much recycled fiber as possible," said Howard Ackerman, general manager of apparel fabrics at Malden, who noted that for the coming year, Malden expects to use between eight million and 10 million pounds of recycled polyester fiber.
Malden, which calls its entire fleece line Polartec, uses Hoechst Celanese's Trevira II recycled polyester.
Dyersburg also uses severalmillion pounds of recycled polyester fiber in its ECO product line. As to 1995, McBride said, "We expect one-third of our business to be from recycled products, whether in the 89 percent or 100 percent form."
Dyersburg's 1993 sales were $151.3 million. Malden, privately held, does about $300 million, according to industry estimates, about half of that in apparel fabrics.
Ackerman said that recycled polyester "will comprise the lion's share of our Polartec line."
Ackerman added that in 1995, Malden too will be introducing a fleece fabric made from 100 percent recycled polyester.
"We've been working on it, but the last thing we've wanted to do is compromise on quality," Ackerman said. "When we get it out, it will have the same characteristics as 100 percent virgin polyester products, particularly with regard to stretch."
The latest introduction into the fleece market by Dyersburg is the second recycled polyester product to be unveiled in the last two weeks.
On Aug. 2, denim producer Swift Textiles said it was incorporating recycled polyester into a collection of fabrics called Soda Pop Denim. That fabric is being made in blends of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent recycled material.
In addition to its Tennessee mill, Dyersburg also operates marketing offices here and in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has representation in Europe, the U.K., Australia and Japan.

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