Recycled Down and Feather Duvets – Pros and Cons

Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT


Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.


If you love down and feather duvets but dislike the cruelty involved, you may want to consider a recycled down duvet instead. We take a look at the pros and cons of recycled feather and down duvets.

Table of Contents
  1. Recycled down – Benefits
  2. The downsides of recycled down
  3. FAQs

What we like

  • Light and lofty
  • Thermally insulating
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Resistant to mold
  • Machine washable
  • Durable (can last 20 years or more!)
  • More eco-friendly than virgin down and feathers
  • Arguably less cruel than virgin down and feathers

What could be better

  • More likely to have been sterilized with formaldehyde and other chemicals
  • Can cost more than other duvets
  • Feather duvets can be spiky and heavier than down
  • Needs regular fluffing to restore loft
  • Recycling down may reduce some of its natural properties

Recycled down – Benefits

Recycled down and feathers can be a great choice for a duvet because they can offer all the properties of down without the cruelty of virgin down and feathers. These duvets can also be more affordable and have less environmental impact than fresh down.

After all, it takes around 40-70 birds to yield enough down or feathers for a queen size duvet. And those birds aren’t humanely sheared a couple of times a year, unlike sheep.

Recycled down is also just a great way to minimize virgin resource use and avoid sending perfectly usable materials to landfill.

The downsides of recycled down

The trouble with recycled down, though, is that it’s not always clear how the down has been sterilized or cleaned for reuse. Some cleaning processes will reduce the natural properties of down and feathers, and some involve toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde.

Some ‘recycled down’ duvets also contain virgin down and feathers as well as synthetic materials. Always check the actual composition of the duvet fill, rather than relying on top-line marketing hype.

Wherever possible, look for credible recycling certification, such as Global Recycled Standard (GRS). Otherwise, it’s not always clear if the recycled content is genuinely recycled.

With this kind of duvet, you’ll also want to check for certifications that pertain to the use of toxic chemicals. Oeko-Tex, eco-INSTITUT, and even MadeSafe can offer reasonable assurance that a recycled down duvet hasn’t been made with toxic chemical inputs.


Which is best for allergies: down or down alternative duvets?

This is an easy one. Despite their reputation for inducing sneezing, you’re actually less likely to experience allergy symptoms with a well-made down duvet versus a polyester duvet. This is because down duvets are more likely to have a tightly woven ticking or duvet case than a polyester duvet.

The ‘down-proof’ encasement is meant to stop feathers poking through and to keep tiny down clusters inside the duvet. This makes your duvet both more durable and less likely to harbor dust mites as they can’t get through the tight weave.

In contrast, polyester duvets tend to collect and retain heat and moisture and have more open encasements. This creates ideal conditions for breeding dust mites.

Whether you have a dust mite allergy or not, look for the NOMITE logo when buying a duvet. This shows that the ticking is tight enough to act as a barrier to dust mites.

Are recycled polyester duvets eco-friendly?

Duvets with a recycled polyester fill are increasingly common. These are certainly more eco-friendly than duvets made with virgin polyester, but they’re still less desirable than a duvet made with natural materials. Most recycled polyester in duvets comprises re:down or rPET which are produced from post-consumer plastic bottles and other plastic waste.

It takes around 120 plastic bottles to produce enough polyester fiber fill for a double or full duvet. This helps to keep plastic waste out of landfill or incinerators and is less energy intensive than producing virgin polyester.

However, recycled polyester duvets still produce microplastic pollution, especially when washed and dried. And they require the use of toxic chemicals in production. They’re also less breathable and thermoregulating than natural duvets, which can mean less comfortable sleep. A polyester duvet also promotes sweaty, humid conditions ripe for dust mite breeding.


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