This news item expired on Friday, February 28, 2014 so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.
This time of year, fleece is everywhere – sweatpants, pullovers, jackets, vests, gloves, scarves, blankets, and more. We are so used to seeing fleece during the cool weather that you might be surprised to know that the first fleece product wasn’t sold until the early 1980s.
By 1993, some of that fleece was being made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Today, many plastic bottles become fleece and other polyester products.
To turn bottles into fleece, used bottles are sorted by color, cleaned, chopped, and ground. The flake plastic is then melted, reformulated, and turned into chips. The chips are heated and sent through a machine called a spinneret (much like a showerhead) to become yarn. A knitting machine turns the yarn into cloth that can be dyed, textured, and finished.
A process called napping gives fleece its famously soft, fuzzy feel.
“How It’s Made” on Discovery Science Channel has a feature on how fleece is made. Watch it on YouTube.