Jersey from recycled polyester – A good example of building a sustainable world

Ariful Hasan Soikot       
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Jersey has been started circulating since the start of the sport and football is not the exception of these games. Jersey is being used to separate the two parties. However, by the evolution of time, a country or club’s history, heritage, culture etc. could be found in the jersey.

Figure 1: Jersey of Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal & Athletico Madrid (From left to right).
Figure 1: Jersey of Sevilla, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal & Athletico Madrid (From left to right).

In the history of football jersey, we have observed that in 1840, England’s “English Public School” football game used two different colors that were red and blue. In 1867, a proposal was made in England, where two teams of football were said to wear two types of red-white and blue-white stripe jerseys. In addition, from 1870, the stripe jersey began to circulate and now there are thousands of designed jerseys.

Jerseys have advantages and disadvantages both. In early days, jersey fabrics were made of cotton or woolen and the clothes were thick enough to wear them so they felt very hot, which was uncomfortable for the players. For avoiding this situation, England’s “Bolton Wanderers” football club was the first to wear the jersey, fabric made of artificial material and to play the “FA Cup Final” in 1953.

Although all jerseys are made from polyester, it is similarly hard to find when exactly polyester jersey used for the first time, but since the 1990s, polyester jersey circulation was moderately seen. Polyester is a large combination of polymers connected through the ester group. Polymer made from monomer and created polymers by forming a long-chain. The most commonly used polyester is polyethylene terephthalate(PET), from the plastic bottles, food box for making  clothes and especially in jersey cloth. Nike recycling 16 bottles to make each jersey. Since 2016, more than three billion plastic bottles has been diverted by Nike from landfills into recycled polyester, enough to cover about 5,200 football pitches.

The biggest advantage of polyester in jersey cloth is “less water absorption”. Cotton, where absorption of 7% of its weight in water, polyester absorbs only 0.4% water which is very important for a footballer. The sweat evaporates and that is why this fabric is referred as a ‘Breathable’ fabric & sometimes ‘Wicking’ fabric. It is also durable and does not crease easily.

Elastane is also used and its biggest advantage is that it can increase up to 600% of its own length before it breaks. Dragging a jersey into football match is a normal thing, and it plays a very important role in preventing jersey rupturing.

Figure 2: Since 2010, Nike has been using 16 recycled plastic bottles for making each jersey.
Figure 2: Since 2010, Nike has been using 16 recycled plastic bottles for making each jersey.

Polyurethanes are built up from compounds called isocyanates and polyols are also used to make jersey. In football jerseys, names, numbers, sponsored names are used, which are made from polyurethane. They can be thermally bonded onto the shirt using a heat-sealer, and unlike other fabrics, they have the benefit of being water resistant.

Figure 3: The chemistry of a football jersey
Figure 3: The chemistry of a football jersey

Currently there are many sports brands are making football jersey like Adidas, Nike, Puma, Umbro, Under Armour, Kappa, Lotto, New Balance etc. Every brand is using different technologies in different ways just like Adidas-ClimaLite, Nike-Dri-Fit, Puma-Dry Cell etc.

Every year Adidas, Nike, Puma sell millions of jerseys. Hence, there are lots of opportunities to get order from them. The question is that can we join the million-dollar business, which could contribute building a sustainable textile and apparel industry?

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