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  • Writer's pictureSynthetic Resources Inc

GRS - Global Recycle Standards , what is it ?


Recycled polyester – specifically recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), is hot and happening. Bus as with organic cotton, the industry is struggling to establish the right mechanisms to prove the authenticity of these recycled components. Certification and accreditation ensure a company’s credible voice strengthening its relationships with consumers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Therefore, we must understand the different verification processes of recycled content i.e., “reclaimed material” claims. Let’s clarify what we know now.

Global Recycle Standard (GRS)

A great starting point for understanding recycled poly is the Global Recycle Standard (GRS). This standard was established in 2008 by the Control Union (CU), a big global auditing and certification organization, and is now managed by Textile Exchange. GRS is international and voluntary third-party certification aimed at companies that want to assure and communicate that their recycled content is authentic. The standard works with a list of rather strict social and environmental requirements such as good working conditions and a minimalized harmful environmental footprint. Because recycling involves almost the entire value chain, the program is available for different industries from ginning and spinning to knitting and dyeing. For B2B purposes, the label may be applied to all products containing at least 20% recycled content, whereas the consumer-facing label requires a minimum of 50%.[1]

Also under Textile Exchange’s wing is the less renowned Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) standard. It contains the basics of GRS. The shared goal of both standards is to increase the use of recycled materials.

Verification process of recycled polyester

It’s easy to say something is made with environmental consideration. It’s a lot more difficult to show how it was done within the different stages along the value chain. GRS-certified poly means that claimed recycled materials (or reclaimed materials) are verified to meet the ISO definition of recycled. Key for apt verification is that the product is traced from the recycler all the way to the final product, and it is exactly how the certification process is structured. Firstly, companies in the process of GRS-certification hand over all documentations and a list with all sources from their direct suppliers (material collectors and concentrators). These partners don’t need to be certified themselves, but they are subject to extra verifications and risk assessments by a professional, third-party.

To verify authenticity, all sources must be reviewed by such a certification body for meeting the definitions of pre-consumer or post-consumer reclaimed material. 10% of suppliers is subject to extra investigation with 2% chosen for physical inspection.[2] The certification body shall audit these supply chain partners (including subcontractors) for a set amount of time – for example, 4 hours at mechanical material recyclers and 5 at chemical recyclers. Other sites include facilities for dyeing and finishing (4 hours) and the trader’s location (varying). Depending on the number of workers there is also a minimum time for worker interviews. These are held during the annual audit, which also includes a deep dive into payrolls and an inspection of all areas within the facility accessible to workers.

Quality issues: is it actually good?

The GRS does not address quality of materials, but this is definitely a topic to consider concerning recycled components. Turning offcuts and deadstock into new fibers is not easy from a technical standpoint. Mechanical recycling results in decreased fiber length, which can only be solved by mixing recycled content with virgin material. The same goes for the rPET technique that turns bottles into fibers. Demand is huge: we expect the market to reach 10 billion USD early next year.[3] However, the quality of plastic bottle material downgrades due to impurities, variations in output and multiple treatments with heat. Every time you recycle PET, the quality gets lower, so you end up with “downcycled” products. But companies like reGain and Reflaunt do offer market-ready solutions that can make it happen: fiber to fiber, dead to new – even at scale. It takes money, time, and a bold attitude from suppliers, brands, and retailers to move on to the next level of mainstream textile recycling.

Business case for certified recycled polyester

So, what does it mean when you certify recycled polyester? From a system thinking approach, it can solve a huge chunk of our sustainability problems caused by the textile business. We need adequate verification systems for reclaimed material authenticity. Knowing what materials are truly brought back to life affirms their value and gives us clear insight in where we’re at on the road to the Paris Agreement commitments for 2050.

There is a business case for making that effort. To managers, certification means knowing what you have to offer. It is a tool that proves a company’s integrity regarding sustainability claims as opposed to the sea of illegitimate greenwashing claims out there in the market. It is what Textile Exchange says: only through certification, sustainability commitments can lead to meaningful and positive change.

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Interested in recycled polyester/pet . SR's recycle Pet products are GRS certified and ready to contribute to your effort to become more sustainable for our textile future. As always we welcome any feedback you have on our topics. If there are other textile related question you have please feel free to contact us

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