Information on the internet about the polyester used in mattresses is often misleading and wrong. It makes customers believe that ‘natural’ products are far superior to the synthetic alternatives and is not based on fact. Polyester, used in mattresses, is not toxic, is highly breathable and does not contribute to plastic (microfibre) pollution.
At Cottonsafe®, as manufacturers, we have consulted academic research to help inform our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of all the different materials we use.
These are some of our sources:
- Environmental Footprints of Recycled Polyester. Subramanian Senthilkannan Muthu · 2019
- Modern Polyesters. Chemistry and Technology of Polyesters and Copolyesters. John Scheirs, Timothy E. Long. 2005.
- Recycled Polyester. Manufacturing, Properties, Test Methods, and Identification 2019.
- Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. Design Journeys. Kate Fletcher. 2012.
- Well Dressed? University of Cambridge Report. 2014
- Handbook of Life Cycle Assessment of Textiles and Clothing. Muthu.
- Ecological Footprint and Water Analysis of Cotton, Hemp and Polyester. Nia Cherrett, John Barrett, Alexandra Clemett, Matthew Chadwick,and M.J. Chadwick. 2009.
- The role and business case for existing and emerging fibres in sustainable clothing DEFRA April 2010.
We have studied the impact of each material on each of the damage categories of the LCA: human health, the ecosystem quality, climate change and resources.
As with any material or fibre, some negative impacts can be found in each when looking across the whole Life Cycle Assessment – for example, there are large quantities of water required for growing cotton, polyester is not biodegradable and the impact of methane from wool production is significant.
As manufacturers, we feel it is necessary to balance the impacts to produce the most effective and sustainable choice for our customers, in line with the Circular Economy.
In sustainability, there is no such thing as a single-frame approach. We have to be aware about the impacts of our fibre choice on whole interrelated product life-cycles, which include the cultivation, production, manufacturing, distribution, consumer laundering, reuse and final disposal.
Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. Design Journeys. Kate Fletcher. 2012
In terms of our use of polyester, the following positive facts have helped inform our Life Cycle Assessment:
Polyester and Human Health
- Human Toxicity. At Cottonsafe® our chief concern is focused on the impact of toxic fire retardant chemicals, on human health. In this regard polyester is a great choice, as the simple polymers used in pure and recycled polyester are naturally fire resistant. So, no FR chemicals are required to meet the UK domestic fire regulations, both within the mattress filling materials or our ‘Purity’ cover. This is our primary objective.
- Respiratory Effects. Polyester is highly breathable and hypoallergenic so great for those who struggle with overheating at night or for all those with allergies.
- Off-gassing. Polyester is one of the lowest off-gassing of all materials.
- The type of polyester used in clothing and that used in bedding has different properties. Fashion cloth is normally treated and dyed, then woven to achieve a silk-like finish. This treated and dyed polyester can be warm to wear and is not very breathable due to the weave and the way its produced. This is totally different to pure polyester used in a fibre form in mattresses, which is very breathable and wicks away moisture. Over the last 80 years, non-woven polyester has been used successfully next to the skin in outdoor clothing such as fleeces, with no negative impact, specifically because it allows the skin to breathe and regulate body temperature.
- Comfort and Longevity. Whilst polyester is a synthetic material, it is NOT a cheap alternative to cotton and allows us to produce a high quality product with proven longevity when used in mattresses. In some of our mattresses we use a new and unique polished thread polyester. Because the polyester threads are polished, they don’t cause friction, so this provides additional rebound to ensure durability, comfort and a luxury feel.
Polyester and the Ecosystem
- The recycled component of our polyester fibre is PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate.) In general this PET comes from plastic bottles, but PET can come from other plastic recycling such as food packaging. It is washed, turned in to chips and then re melted and spun into fibre. Recycled polyester is not made with catalytic agents or antimony-based catalysts.
- The polyester used both on and in our mattresses is Stockholm Convention compliant for recycling and are labelled as such. This means no additional chemicals have been used (such as fire retardants, stain-repellents, adhesives) and each mattress can be disassembled for recycling with no negative impact for the recycling workers or leeching into the water course.
- Plastic and microfibre pollution does NOT come from polyester materials used in mattress as mattresses are not washed or laundered. Most of the anti-polyester information on the internet is focused on microfibre pollution caused by regularly washing polyester clothing created by the fashion industry.
- Polyester tends to use lower levels of other basic chemicals in the finishing process, while cotton typically uses considerable quantities in finishing processes.
Polyester and Climate Change / Resources
- Energy use in finishing systems is very similar between natural, wool and polyester finishing systems. Recycled polyester uses less energy than pure polyester. However, pure polyester can be infinitely recycled.
- Water pollution. The polyester used in mattresses is NOT washable. Therefore, unlike clothing which is laundered, plastic and microfibre pollution is not relevant to mattresses.
- Polyester has a low carbon footprint because it can easily be recycled as it is one of the simplest polymers. Supporting the Circular Economy, polyester can be reprocessed infinitely, using waste as a resource.
- In general terms, water consumption in the production of manufactured polyester fibres is lower than for natural fibres.
So please don’t believe everything you read about the polyester used in mattresses. Much is written for commercial advantage and condemnation is simply not based on facts. At Cottonsafe® we are passionate about honesty, so you can make an informed choice of your own.