This interview is part of ReCo Circular CityTM 2023 edition, Circular Sydney. For more information, please visit reco.net.au/circular-sydney
Plastic is weaved into the fabric. Your socks. Your underwear. Your active wear. Even if you make sure you wear everything organic cotton, it's in there. Petroleum is used to produce plastic and contributes to 60% of the materials used in our global clothing production.
Which fabrics are made of plastic?
If your garment contains any synthetic fibres, it means it has plastics. Check your labels:
Polyester is one of the most popular synthetic textile due to its low cost, durability and accessibility.
Nylon is mostly used in stockings and activewear.
Acrylic is produced to mimic wool. It's used often in sweaters, hats, socks, and knits.
PVC, vinyl or PU are used to create shiny coatings on clothing.
Elastane, spandex or lycra is another popular synthetic fibre because of its elasticity. It's used largely in anything that stretches, underwear, swimming costumes and activewear.
Why should you avoid plastic-based fabrics?
Simply put, they go into the ocean without us even seeing them.
According to vox.com, it's possible that a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of synthetic fibres into the waterway and reach the ocean as microplastics. These fibres are tiny: less than 5 millimetres in length with diameters measured in micrometres.
15–51 trillion individual pieces of microplastics are in the ocean*
That sounds bad. But how bad? We don't know the exact impact yet. But we know that microplastics are threatening sea animals and the ocean ecosystem. They are officially in our food chain and impacting our health.
The most common leather alternative is made from plastic-based polyurethane chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Plant-based vegan leather is derived from natural products like pineapple leaves and apple peel. However, it may still use some polyurethane (PU) as a binding agent.
We assume no one washes leather goods in the washing machine, so it doesn't send plastic into the waterways. Just don't throw it in the bin and let it end up in landfills.
Should I wear t-shirts made from recycled plastic?
Garments made from recycled plastic help turn wastes into resources.
As long as these garments are not washed, particularly in a washing machine, the impact should be minimal. However, these fabrics don't breathe well, and the chance is that you might end up washing them more often than expected.
What fabrics are plastic free?
Cotton, Tencel (made from wood pulps), wool, cashmere, silk, linen and hemp. Make sure the material is 100% or a blend of these materials.
It's important to check the sustainability commitments and certifications of the brand you are buying from. For example, some labels claim 100% cashmere. But the fact is, they might contain synthetic fabrics because 100% cashmere would be very expensive to produce. It's best to shop with brands that show 100% transparency and commitments.
This article is part of our Plastic Free July 2020 collaboration with Citizen Wolf.
This Interview is part of Circular Sydney.
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Circular Sydney shares the stories of visionary individuals and organisations who are pioneering change, overcoming challenges and reshaping Sydney’s sustainable future. Circular Sydney is proudly supported by the City of Sydney Knowledge Exchange Grant.
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