But what about the plastic hiding in our clothes?
I'm talking about polyester and other synthetics, such as nylon, acrilyc, and spandex. These materials, which are essentially plastics, received the lowest score (E) on our ethical clothing fabric scale.
We're facing a big environmental problem, since we're consuming more and more of them, and they're not biodegradable, meaning they won't ever go away.
Here are some of the main problems associated with polyester:
- Water pollution: the production is chemically-intensive and the chemicals end up in the water
- It's derived from the oil industry and it uses a lot of energy and resources
- Just like plastic bottles and plastic bags, the end product is not biodegradable, meaning it will be on the earth forever
- Polyester clothes can not be 100% recycled into clothes since the material degrades every time it's processed; clothes from recycled polyester are often made from plastic bottles
- Even when recycled, the process is chemically-intensive and causes additional pollution
- Both polyester and recycled polyster cause a ton of microplastics in our oceans
- Machine-washing of polyester clothes alone causes the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles in our oceans in terms of the microplastics every year
Why Is Polyester So Bad?
Not only is polyester derived from the world's biggest polluter -- the oil industry -- but it's also the least sustainable fabric since unlike cotton or even rayon, it never biodegrades.
Polyster also requires more energy and emits 3 times as much CO2 gas than cotton, not to mention the water pollution caused by the chemicals that are used in the production process. And we already established that cotton isn't an environmentally-friendly fabric to begin with.
The issue with microplastics is a big one, since the microplastics are released every time we wash our polyester garments. If the average family does one load of laundry a week, we're looking at a huge number. It's estimated that 500,000 tonnes of microfiber plastics are released each year from machine-washing alone.
The biggest problem? Polyester demand is growing. Since polyester never goes away, this creates more waste in our landfills, and more pollution. The more people know about the issue with polyester, the more likely we are of stopping this trend.
My Challenge To You: Stop Buying Polyester
If you're looking to shop more ethically, cutting out polyester entirely is a great first step. It's not too drastic, but it still requires thoughtfulness You'll become aware of the materials in your clothes, and learn to make small sacrifices.
And who knows where this small change will take you. It might lead to bigger swaps, to finding brands that are more ethical, or to thrifting (which, of course, is the only exception to the no-polyester challenge).