Global recycled polyester fiber market continues to grow

For a long time, the production of global recycled polyester fiber is mainly concentrated on the stable fiber with a terminal application rate of more than 90%. Statistics from 2011 to 2016 reveals that among the terminal application rate of global recycled polyester fiber, stable fiber takes up the largest proportion between 91% and 94% indicating that the production and application of global recycled polyester fiber are largely concentrated on stable fiber products with lower unit price. In the future, there will be a growth in filament fiber products with higher added value and supported by global retailers and distributors. For example, Nike is about to launch a women's collection made from recycled polyester fiber. With the aid of 3-D body mapping technology to enhance the specific body figures of women while taking into account natural exercise, comfort, and performance, the new product series adopt double knit cotton and renewable polyester fiber to provide a soft touch of clothing that captures the athletes' hearts like no other (see Figure 1).


Figure 1 Nike will launch the women collection made from recycled polyester fiber(Nike Official Website)

As everyone knows, Mainland China had become the world's largest producer of recycled polyester fiber which mainly concentrated on the production of staple fiber. According to the statistics of Japan Chemical Fibers Association, approximately 38 million metric tons of raw fiber were produced in Mainland China in 2016, among which filament fiber accounted for 74% (or 28.2 million metric tons) and staple fiber accounted for 26% (or 9.8 million metric tons). However, the annual output of recycled polyester fiber in Mainland China was nearly 4.8 million metric tons, accounting for 66% of the global recycled polyester fiber production, of which filament fiber accounted for 10% (or 0.47 million metric tons) and staple fiber accounted for 90% (or 4.32 million metric tons).


Karla Magruder, founder of Fabrikology and leader of the recycled polyester work group of Textile Exchange (see figure 2) revealed that,

Although the demand for recycled polyester fiber has increased significantly, compared to raw polyester fiber, recycled polyester fiber still accounts for only 14% of all polyester fiber markets, most of which were used as low-end applications such as fiber fillers or industrial fibers. To make filament fiber, better technology and quality are required.
Figure 2 Global Recycled Standard Logo of Textile Exchange

Due to the expansion of production and the rapid improvement of technology and quality, recycled polyester fiber is becoming more and more competitive in terms of market price which is also the main reason for the gradual expansion of recycled polyester fiber market. Raw polyester staple fiber contributes to the largest proportion of polyester fiber market and it is expected to reach US$ 16.45 billion in revenue by 2025. According to a report conducted by Research and Markets, recycled polyester staple fiber will have significant market growth in the future due to global environmental awareness on the rise and will replace part of the application markets for raw polyester staple fiber.

Repreve®, a brand of American chemical fiber manufacturer Unifi, mainly produces recycled polyester fiber (see Figure 3). The company has set a target of recycling 20 billion PET bottles by 2020 and has so far recycled 12 billion PET bottles. At the same time, the company also promotes the functional fiber made of Repreve® fiber and wins the recognition and appraisal from the consumer market.



Figure 3 Repreve® Recycling System

At present, the main developmental direction of global recycled polyester fiber is how to manufacture fine denier yarn and ultrafine denier yarn, and blend it with staple fiber such as cotton and rayon to improve the product quality in general clothing and home textiles. Without doubt, the textile industry is very interested in recycled polyester fiber, especially one that replaces raw polyester fiber. In addition to one-time recycling, many manufacturers have begun to study how to recycle polyester fiber textiles that have already been recycled once to achieve a real resource cycle.


全球回收聚酯纖維市場需求持續成長

長期以來,全球回收聚酯纖維生產以短纖維為主,終端應用比例高達90%以上。調查統計2011~2016年全球回收聚酯纖維的終端應用比例,以短纖維占有最高比重,約佔有91%~94%的高比重,全球回收聚酯纖維的生產應用還都是在價格較低的短纖產品上;未來比較有成長性的是衣著用長纖產品,一方面是附加價值較高,再則是全球國際品牌商和通路商的推動,例如Nike即推出以回收聚酯纖維製成之女性系列服飾,透過3-D體態測繪技術的輔助,加強勾勒女性具體身型,並兼顧自然的運動、舒適性和性能,更採以雙針織棉和再生聚酯布料,足以提供服飾柔軟的手感,深獲廣大運動族群消費者的肯定與青睞。(參見圖1)


眾所周知,中國大陸已經是全球最大回收聚酯纖維生產國家,也是以短纖維生產為主。根據日本化纖協會統計數據,2016年中國大陸原生絲產量約為3,800萬噸,其中長纖為2,820萬噸,佔74%,短纖為980萬噸,佔26%;但是中國大陸的回收聚酯纖維年產量將近480萬噸,約占有全球回收聚酯纖維生產量66%,其中長纖維生產量47萬噸,約占10%,短纖維為432萬噸,占90%。

Fabrikology的創辦人同時也是領導紡織交易所(Textile Exchange,參見圖2)回收聚酯工作團隊的Karla Magruder表示:

回收聚酯纖維的需求雖然大幅增加,但比起原生聚酯纖維,回收聚酯纖維仍只佔所有聚酯纖維市場的14%,且大部分都是作為纖維填充物或是工業用纖維等低階應用。若想要做成長絲纖維,需要更好的技術與品質才行。

因為產量擴增及技術、品質快速提升等因素,致使回收聚酯纖維在價格上越來越具有競爭力,同時亦是造成回收聚酯纖維市場逐漸擴大的主因。而原生聚酯短纖是聚酯纖維市場中占比最大的種類,預估在2025年會達到164.5億美元的營收。根據Research and Markets所提供的報告,回收聚酯短纖將會因全球環保意識的興盛而有顯著的市場成長,並將取代部分原生聚酯短纖的應用市場。

美國化纖製造商Unifi公司旗下品牌Repreve®主要是生產回收聚酯纖維(參見圖3),該公司訂下2020年目標回收200億個保特瓶,目前已經回收達到120億個保特瓶,同時大力推廣Repreve®纖維製成的機能性纖維,並獲得廣大消費市場的認同。


目前全球發展回收聚酯纖維的主要方向與問題是如何製造細丹和超細丹尼紗,並將其與棉花和嫘縈等短纖維混紡,以提高產品品質應用在一般用衣著和家用紡織品上。毫無疑問地,紡織業界對回收聚酯纖維的興趣很高,尤其是用來取代原生聚酯纖維,除一次性回收外,已經有許多廠商亦開始研究如何將回收聚酯纖維紡織品做再次的回收應用,以達到真正的資源循環。

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