We have spent the past two years of PLC tirelessly searching and learning how best to bring you the perfect blend of effortless comfort without resorting to synthetic, harmful materials. Our goal is for our expanding community to feel incredible both inside and out and to know that we have done the heavy lifting for you; so you can trust a purchase with PLC is thoroughly researched, 100% transparent and the most sustainable and planet conscious process possible.
Before we delve deeper into this subject, we want to openly admit that our journey has not been without its mishaps. Though we've never used virgin polyester, we do recognize that for a moment we thought that recycled synthetics could be the answer we've been looking for. A pivotal moment for us came when we read Alden Wicker's eye-opening book "To Dye For." Our aim with this article is not to point fingers or assign blame, but rather to stimulate curiosity and prompt thoughtful decision-making when it comes to shopping.
Quick note – we aren’t suggesting going on a wardrobe rampage tossing all your synthetic clothing out the window. Wear them till they're worn out, then ship them off to the good people at First Mile. They'll recycle your dearly departed garments into new things (like carpet backing!) and let them live on in circular style heaven.
5 Reasons we avoid synthetic fabrics:
- Near impossible to recycle
- Made from oil
- Devastating for planet
- Microplastic menace
- Serious health effects
Non-Recyclable and Non-Circular Reality
The ugly truth - We've been led to believe that polyester can be made eco-friendly by using recycled polyester or clothing made from reclaimed bottles, but this is far from the truth. Whenever we see the term 'recycled,' we easily presume our old items are being reused efficiently.
Tiffanie Darke (“It’s not sustainable”) says "Recycling as we know takes water and energy, and according to Textile Exchange, recycled polyester uses plastic bottles 99% of the time, not the tracksuit bottoms you just dumped in the recycling bin. What’s more, when you recycle plastic bottles into fabric they cannot be recycled again. Recycle them back into bottles and they can be infinitely recycled, so many think recycled PET should be kept for the food industry."
Dressed in Oil
There are shocking realities when it comes to the materials we wear and the reasons behind avoiding them. The Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign spells it out clearly: when you don synthetic fabrics, you're essentially wearing oil. "The production of synthetic fibers consumes the equivalent amount of oil per year as all of Spain, and polyester manufacturing alone generates emissions equal to 180 coal-fired power plants annually."
Although people are becoming more aware of the necessity to reduce plastic use in various sectors, many still don't associate plastic with the garments they put on. Materials like polyester, which are practically non-recyclable, pollute both our bodies and the earth with microfibers.
According to a recent study from Plymouth University, in the UK, each cycle of a washing machine can release more than 700,000 plastic fibers into the environment. A paper published in 2011 in the journal Environmental Science Technology found that microfibers made up 85 percent of human-made debris on shorelines around the world. It doesn’t matter if garments are from virgin or recycled polyester, they both contribute to microplastics pollution. The UNESCO shared the scary statistic that there are currently “50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean”.
“To Dye For”:
Synthetic fabrics have long been a popular choice due to their incredibly low production costs. However, the impact on our health should not be overlooked. Created from plastic, synthetic materials require harsh chemicals for dyeing, resulting in a higher toxic content. While the fashion industry often links such high chemical usage to countries like China and Bangladesh where many garments are produced, these harmful substances can remain on our clothing all the way into our closets.
In a captivating Vogue article written by the brilliant Alden Wicker, she delves into the intriguing issue of major brands recalling garments due to alarmingly high levels of hazardous chemicals present in their clothing. “In 2018, River Island had to recall several pieces due to unsafe levels of lead and cadmium. In 2020, Primark recalled a pair of kitten heels for excessive chromium.”
We have included the European Commission’s website which contain all the fashion products with high levels of hazardous substances.
Through our continuous research, we've discovered that to truly progress towards a sustainably happy life, we must realise the circularity of all things. Embrace the mantra: what we take, we must return. With this mindset, synthetic fabrics restrict their lifecycle, contradicting the natural ebb and flow of circularity.
Discussing this information might feel overwhelming and paint a bleak picture. However, let it ignite a spark within you to question every single purchase. Heed the wise words of the legendary Vivienne Westwood: “BUY LESS, CHOOSE WELL, MAKE IT LAST.” It's really that simple! By becoming mindful consumers, we can drive demand for locally made, small productions of natural and recycled garments. Fortunately, there are a number of exceptional organisations and campaigns that are paving the way – check out the references for some recommendations, including First Mile to help with your recycling needs.
We're always excited about repurposing your old clothing! Send them our way, and we'll breathe new life into them. If you have any questions or need assistance, don't hesitate to get in touch at email@example.com. Let's join forces to make the world a more sustainable and stylish place!