From Waste to Wardrobe: Screen Printing on REPREVE© Recycled Fabric

There's an undeniable allure to the adage that one man's trash can indeed become another man's treasure. This rings remarkably true when we bring Repreve© into the conversation.

Picture this: post-industrial waste, litter discarded without a second thought, metamorphosing into a breathable and flexible yarn. The result? An array of products ranges from athletic footwear to the most comfortable of couches, and yes, a smorgasbord of apparel.

But where does printing on Repreve© fit into this equation? What influence does it wield on the end product? Could this be your new favorite in the lineup of sustainable fabric choices?

Unlocking the Mystery: What is Repreve©?

Simply put, Repreve© is a game-changer. It's a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles typically destined for the landfill. The journey begins with the collection of such waste and its transportation to a recycling facility. Our protagonists, the sourced bottles, are chopped, cleaned, and melted at the Repreve© Bottle Processing Center in Reidsville, NC, where they undergo transformation into flakes and then chips. In the final stage of this process, the chip is heated, released, and spun into the Repreve© fiber – the star of our story. (Check out the pictures in this article from our visit to the plant!).

This high-quality, recycled polyester fiber, the brainchild of the brilliant minds at Unifi, offers a sustainable alternative to virgin polyester in the apparel industry. The process comes with a U Trust© verification that certifies it as recycled content and ensures proper use of Repreve© throughout the process. Picture a million pounds of waste given a shot at reincarnation in the form of fabric, time and again. It's nothing short of a miracle.

Why Should You Use Repreve's© Recycled Fiber Polyester?

Repreve© is an exemplar of how recycled materials can seamlessly replace virgin polyester without sacrificing an iota of quality or functionality in the textile. The resultant fabric boasts thermal comfort and moisture-wicking properties, making it an excellent candidate for athletic apparel. The Repreve© fiber serves the same function as virgin polyester. Still, it's the significant reduction in environmental footprint during its production that truly cements its place as a sustainability champion in the textile industry. Did you know that for each kilogram of Repreve© material produced, up to 62% less energy and 99% less water are utilized compared to virgin polyester fabric? Moreover, Repreve© polyester reduces waste by up to 35% and curbs carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20%.

The story of Repreve©'s environmental benefits extends beyond repurposing plastic bottles. Its production process is less demanding in terms of energy and water compared to virgin polyester, making it an eco-friendly powerhouse. By reducing the volume of plastic waste that lands up in landfills and our oceans, Repreve© contributes significantly to our planet's well-being.

Fun Fact: Garments that use Repreve© also don't need to be tumble-dried, reducing the average household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year.

What About Repreve's© Printing Quality?

Repreve© offers a breathable, long-lasting fabric. Just a heads up though, 100% polyester isn't really our jam here at Superior Ink. Why's that? Our go-to is water-based ink (Curious about the why? Check out this cool blog). The trick is in the switch - we’re craftily swapping the shirt's dye with our ink pigment. This slick move only really hits the mark when we're working with a shirt that's mostly cotton. The cotton helps the ink absorb and stay put once cured.

Really, water-based ink is notably translucent, meaning you can't print pure water-based ink on a black garment without printing a discharge base or blending the water base with discharge. High-solid acrylic is a no-go for us due to its environmental implications. Therefore, we recommend and work predominantly with blanks that harmonize well with our process. 100 % Polyester, whether virgin or recycled really doesn't fit that for us. Blends are a good option for combining the absorbing properties of cotton and the Repreve© recycled aspect. (See our tips at the end of the article to find out the blend we love which is both Repreve© and organic cotton!).

The Big Question: Is Repreve © Recycled Fiber Truly Superior?

Polyester, regardless of whether it's virgin or recycled, invariably introduces the concern of microplastics seeping into our water supply and eventually making their way to our oceans. Companies like Guppies have engineered ways to wash polyester without allowing micro-plastic leakage back into the environment which may be an option, but not as sustainable as simply not producing polyester.

However, we must acknowledge that Repreve© is repurposing trash, water bottles, and other harmful plastics, originally destined for our oceans, into synthetic fabric. Utilizing Repreve© fiber grants these items a new lease on life, but this doesn't mean they vanish completely. Recycled polyester, like its counterparts, still ends up in landfills and requires hundreds of years to decompose. This decomposition process releases harmful toxins and greenhouse gases into our environment.

At Superior Ink, we lean towards organic cotton, specifically Supima cotton, or recycled cotton, as the top contenders for eco-friendliness and superior screen-print results. Yet, we salute companies like Repreve© that manifest such profound environmental passion. Each use of Repreve's© recycled polyester nudges us away from virgin polyester, which is an undeniable victory for our planet. From our perspective, Repreve© is a worthy alternative for any garment requiring polyester (it makes it possible to use recycled!).

The Sustainability Dilemma

Choosing to roll with fabrics rocking Repreve fibers is your call and your call alone. Sustainability? It often feels like we're trying to pull off a tricky high-wire act. On one side of the coin, we're merch creators and innovators, making merchandise that adds that extra spark to life. On the flip, we're Earth's protectors, rockin' this planet we call home.

We're forever navigating this tightrope, gravitating towards eco-friendly materials that help us dial down our carbon footprints. This eco-awareness vibe isn't just some passing trend - it's a rallying cry that's got our attention. We're totally tuned into the need to conserve water, save energy, and integrate these values into our production.

But let's keep it real - we're all for greening up our act, but we've got to balance that with the practicalities of life. Going full-on natural and ditching clothes might be the most eco-friendly move ever, but it's not gonna fly with the social norms (or the law, for that matter). Whether we're rocking the producer or consumer hat, we need clothes - they're our armor, our style, and a big part of our daily lives.

So, where's the middle ground? How do we keep pumping out the goods while also giving props to our planet? By making better choices, we can champion the cause of eco-friendly fashion, pushing towards a future where our threads respect our Earth and still keep us looking fly. Because, you know, change starts with just one step in the right direction.

Cool Vibes Only: Our Top Repreve© Tips

So you're thinking about taking the eco-friendly plunge with Repreve©'s recycled fabric for your next merch extravaganza? Rad. Here's how to ace it:

1. Give a Blend a Go: We're all about the blends, baby! A favorite we often mingle with in our shop is the Allmade Tri-Blend. This eco-conscious mix flaunts 50% recycled polyester (Repreve©), spun from recycled plastic bottles, 25% organic cotton, and a sweet 25% Tencel™ Modal. It's the perfect cocktail of sustainability and top-notch absorbency.

2. Become a Research Rockstar: This article? It's only the tip of the Repreve© iceberg. There's a whole world of knowledge beneath the surface waiting to be explored. Dive deep into their supply chain transparency. Explore their partnership certifications. Scroll through the list of brands getting their Repreve© on. All this and more awaits you on their website. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it's also a way to save our planet.

So gear up, eco-warriors! Elevate your merchandise revolution with Repreve©, or's up to you!

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