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What About Plastic In Your Clothing | ACE The Sustainable Wardrobe


Plastic in our clothing - sustainable fashion and ethical fashion
Abuse of plastic is one of the biggest problems our generation is facing. 

Problem is not the plastic, its the way we are irresponsibly using the material.  Single-use plastic - the plastic that we only use once and throw away forgetting that it will outlive your generation and next's, is one of the major problems. While we have started being more mindful about single-use plastic use like plastic bottles, plastic straws, food that comes in plastic-packaging, we pay little heed to the plastic in our clothes and wardrobes. And I am not talking about the plastic packaging.

Did you know 65% of clothing produced worldwide is made from plastic? From your gorgeous flowy dress, sexy swimsuits and underwear (yes even that!) to your stylish vegan heels & chic handbag everything has plastic. Surprised? 

The problem is the when these garments are washed, they shed and release thousands of tiny, unseen microplastics (or microfibers) into the oceans, consumed by sea creatures and enter our drinking water stream. When eaten by animals, microfibres {microplastics} can artificially fill up the guts of animals, causing blockages and death. 

Scientists are finding this tiny debris from our clothes everywhere; in the soil, oceans, drinking water and food chains. Each cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres into the environment, according to a study by the Plymouth University UK. The study further indicated that a single person could release ~300 million polyester microfibres per year to the environment by washing their clothes and over 900 million to the air by simply wearing the garments. That's a huge number and we need to do something about it...........

WHICH FABRICS SHED MICROPLASTICS?

PLASTIC IN YOUR CLOTHES - Common Plastic Fabrics in Clothing
  • Most common plastic fabrics are polyester, acrylic, nylon, lycra/spandex, which must be avoided 
  • Blends containing synthetics must be avoided too. They shed microfibers and are nearly impossible to recycle. For example, a jumper that is 50% cotton and 50% polyester is just as bad as 100% polyester.
  • Maintain caution with cellulose microfibres also. They have also been found in food chains. These fabrics include rayon, lyocell, viscose, modal, and bamboo. 
The worst offender? Its acrylic. An average washing load could release ~728,789 fibres from acrylic, ~137,951 fibres from polyester-cotton blend fabric, and ~496,030 fibres from polyester (Source).  

What about the econyl fabric that's made from recycled plastic bottles or fishing nets? Well, unfortunately they’re equally bad too. While they are definitely better than virgin polyester (since they’re recycled materials) but these garments also shed lots of plastic debris.

Is leather ok, it is a natural material? A material made from an innocent animal's skin who was probably butchered for it can never be ethical. Besides, leather industry is responsible for far-reaching environmental damage, just like other forms of animal agriculture. A animal skin on its own degrades right away. So turning animal skins into leather material requires the use of dose of highly toxic chemicals including chromium, toxic mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of which are cyanide-based. Tanneries dump large quantities of pollutants as liquid, sludge, or solid waste harming the environment. The people working in the tanneries are exposed to these toxic chemicals and are often victims of various health issues, most common of which is skin cancer.

So is leather sustainable? No its not. There are various eco-friendly vegan leather alternatives in the market like cork, wood and mushroom leather that are not plastic or are recycled materials. These materials do offer a solution regarding the origin and the environmental impact.

WHAT CAN I DO? 

This is my favorite part - the solution! Read the labels and pay attention every time you buy clothes, shoes or other items. Buy high quality clothing that last and that are made from biodegradable natural materials like organic cotton, recycled cotton, bamboo, and Tencel. 

I have designed a 3-step system, which I coined the term "ACE" that will help you create a plastic-free sustainable wardrobe, without breaking your bank. 

  • AVOID: Avoid synthetic fabrics made from petrochemicals and their blends. This includes polyester, nylon, acrylic, vinyl, PVC. Say no to items with tags that tout catch phrases like “wrinkle-free”, “waterproof”, “easy-care”, they are synthetic fabrics with polyester component. 
  • CONSIDER: When you shop new, choose 100% natural fabrics and support sustainable brands. By choosing natural materials such as cotton, recycled cotton, hemp, linen and bamboo you can rest assured that the material will not create an endless loop of pollution and will break down eventually. Opt for fashion brands that are doing good – paying fair wages, using ecofriendly fabrics, adopting #sustainable practices and giving back. However, this is still not the best option because buying “new” still puts a strain on the planet, even if it is sustainably produced. That’s why I believe in embrace……..
  • EMBRACE: The most sustainable outfit is the one in your wardrobe. So, embrace what you already have and experiment with it. The fashion industry perpetuates overconsumption. Overconsumption and consumerism are the main drivers of all the environmental destruction that we are now facing. As individuals and citizens of this planet, we have the responsibility towards promoting the right practices. So, instead of buying new items, shop from your own closet. You will be surprised with so many treasures you will find inside it.

    You have things that don’t fit or are out of style?  Tap your creative side and transform old things into new designs. Make use of what is already owned and produced. If you still need something “new”, explore pre-owned and vintage stores or try clothing rental services.

    Also, it is very important to take care of your garments. Wash less, so they don't release microfibers, and take good care of them to give them longer life. Make sure to wash them in cold water and for a shorter time. Use a microfiber catcher when you wash the garments in a machine like Cora Ball.

    Dispose off your items carefully. Where possible, find a way to upcycle your outfits so they don't end up in landfills. Be creative, use your imagination. If you must, look out for disposal options in your region such as selling to pre-owned stores or giving to recycling programs.
    Sustainable fashion quotes - How to create a sustainable wardrobe
Follow ACE system and you’re all set for your sustainablefashion journey!


🔍 ABOUT MY OUTFIT: PLASTIC SCAN
  • The Theory cotton shirt I am wearing has a small percentage of elastane and so does my sustainable organic cotton lingerie. I have this shirt in my wardrobe for over 3 years. 
  • These pants, recently bought, from Oysho are made from ECOVERO™️ Viscose, a certified sustainable fabric. The pants are part of my loungewear set, that I also wear socially.
  • The ASOS vegan leather pumps are unfortunately made from PU, which is essentially a plastic. 
  • My favorite part of the outfit is this beautiful handbag, which is ethically handcrafted by artisans using Iraca palm. It’s colored with natural dyes and stitched with cotton. No plastic here. It’s a true piece of art from sustainable fashion brand No Name Just People that empowers artisans and ensures the ancient weaving techniques are alive in these beautiful pieces of art. 
NEED TO DO BETTER THAN THIS....

Let's challenge each other to look inside our wardrobe and read the labels of the clothing we have. You will be shocked how much plastic is already there. 

This Plastic Free July let us strive to reduce the number of synthetics we use, and to ensure that those is existence don’t end up in our waterways.
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