Some of Cambridge Polymer Group's staff spent last Friday’s lunch hour working with polymers for a good cause. Unlike our usual analytical testing and contract R&D, this particular work did not require a lab. We braided polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into dog toys for PetsEmpower, a non-profit that fosters and reunites pets with survivors of domestic violence. The polar fleece toys will be given to animals during and after their foster experience.
PET - A Warm and Fuzzy Material
From dog toys to astronaut underwear, polar fleece has infiltrated every aspect of our textile lives. It's hard to believe this ubiquitous fabric was invented as recently as 1979. Two factors contributed to polar fleece's widespread adoption. Firstly, extruded and then woven PET is a good replacement for wool; it is soft and warm, but not as scratchy as wool and certainly not as smelly when wet. Secondly, Malden Mills, the fabric's inventor and manufacturer, chose not to patent the new technology, allowing other vendors to make the wool alternative. Although originally seen as an outdoor material, garment makers quickly recognized polar fleece's potential benefits in applications beyond backpacking gear.
Polyethylene terephthalate is made by heating terephthalic acid with ethylene glycol (a.k.a. antifreeze). As the PET cools, it forms a viscous liquid. That liquid is then extruded through a nozzle, dried, and cut into plastic flakes. To make polar fleece, those flakes are heated and extruded through fine holes. As the liquid sprays out of the holes, it hardens into a fiber that is wound onto heated spools. In addition to making polar fleece out of virgin PET, it is also possible to use chopped up soda bottles.
PET Toys for PetsEmpower
The polar fleece toy is soft on the dog's mouth, yet strong enough to withstand some pulling. Since the fabric is machine washable, it doesn't matter how dirty it gets. These toys provide enrichment and chewing stimulation during and after the dog's foster stay.
Why is the foster stay necessary? Some domestic violence survivors are reluctant to leave abusive living situations because of what will happen to their pets; most human shelters do not allow animal family members. PetsEmpower finds foster families for those animals so that domestic violence survivors can access resources without worrying about the safety and comfort of their pets. Once survivors have reestablished themselves in new environments, they are reunited with their pets.
Cambridge Polymer Group is proud to support PetsEmpower. We are grateful to Polartec (previously known as Malden Mills) for providing the navy polar fleece for the dog toys and to Building Impact for supplying the other colors and for facilitating this warm and fuzzy volunteer opportunity.