Impact of Synthetic Textiles

The raw ingredient of Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic and Polypropylene is oil. In just 60 years man-made fibers have deposed cotton.

The raw ingredient of Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic and Polypropylene is oil. In just 60 years man-made fibers have deposed cotton.

Man-made Fibers

In just 60 years man-made fibers have deposed cotton. From the beginning of time until the 1950’s all textiles and clothing produced anywhere in the world were made from natural fibers. There are two kinds of natural fiber, those that are grown on plants such as cotton and linen, and those that come from animals namely wool and silk. They are all produced by agriculture (the 2nd biggest polluter on the planet).

Due to the limited supply of these agricultural fibers, the textile products made from them had a certain value and were kept for years. However the invention in the UK and USA of factory made fibers, between 1920 and 1960, dramatically changed the textile landscape. In the last 20 years alone, man made fibers have far outstripped what we have been making by working with nature over thousands of years.

There are two types of man-made fiber; firstly cellulosic fibers, sometimes known as artificial silks. These are the shiny acetate linings, flowing flowery viscose dresses and smart Tencel suits, all made by chemically "melting" wood or other plants into liquid or dope.

Secondly, Polyester, Nylon, Acrylic and Polypropylene are synthetic fibers; their raw material is oil. The most familiar for clothing is polyester. Invented in the UK in 1941, Polyester is made by melting and combining 2 types of oil derived plastic pellets. The hot mixture is the polymer chemically known as polyethylene terephthalate.

All cellulosic and synthetic fibers are made like spaghetti as the liquid is forced through holes, drawn out into a long fine thread, cooled and wound onto bobbins.

Man-made fibers would never have taken off if not for other inventions in chemistry at about the same time, namely, advances in chemical dyes, which were inextricably linked to the acceptance of synthetics as bright colorful textile fibers. Synthetics have to be dyed at 120 degrees, which in turn needs pressurized vessels, so along with synthetics came the concentration of textile processing into large scale industrial processing units.

READ ABOUT THE IMPACT OF DYE