As the world celebrated World Ocean Day on June 8, the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans was brought to the forefront of public consciousness. Plastic pollution is more serious and difficult than we think. Microplastic pollution is a newly discovered form of plastic pollution that is polluting our oceans and killing the beautiful marine life. Everytime we wash our synthetic clothes made of material such as polyester or nylon, tiny plastic fibres get eroded out of them. These ultimately end up in waterways around the globe. Unsuspecting marine animals eat these tiny plastic particles and die a painful death. But what’s more worse is that the microplastic fibres eventually end up back on our plate, slowly killing us too! Scary, isn’t it? Never thought of it too, right?
As fashion industry’s consciousness heightens around this issue, more fashion designers are finding ways to repurpose plastic into clothing and accessories. But is recycling plastic into clothing a good idea? Studies suggest it will do more harm than good. Let’s take a look.
Since when did we start using plastic in our clothing?
Synthetic fibers came into existence during the early 1880s. With their superior quality and low cost, they became hugely popular in a short period of time. Little did we know at that time that they would become a huge problem for us. Synthetic materials like polyester, fleece, nylon and acrylic are made of strands of plastic. When these fabrics are washed, the plastic fibres end up in oceans, contributing to ocean microplastic pollution. The most common synthetic fibres in our closets include:
Repurposing Waste Plastic into Clothes - A Good Idea?
Our oceans are strangulating with plastic waste and studies suggest that an estimated 8 million tons of plastic are added every year. According to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s findings, if we continue using plastic at this scale, there might be more plastic than fish in our seas by 2050. This terrifying forecast prompted many entrepreneurs to find solutions to tackle the plastic problem in the deep blue.
The fashion industry which is incredibly resource intensive started repurposing plastic from oceans and waste sites to create perfectly cut clothing that nobody would be able to guess where it came from.
Then What is the Problem?
While conversations around reducing plastic usage have never abated, there’s a fresh debate that’s capturing people’s attention these days - “Reusing waste plastic for making clothes is good or bad?” While repurposing plastic into clothes might seem like a perfect solution at first, here’s why it should not be done.
Microplastic pollution: Plastic has been used in our clothes for a long time and gradually they have taken their toll on our environment and health. 63% of the clothes that adorn our wardrobes today are made from plastic. When these clothes are washed, millions of plastic fibres end up in the wastewater and ultimately in the oceans where they are absorbed by the marine organisms. That being said, repurposing plastic to make clothing will do more harm than good as ultimately the plastic will end up in oceans, contributing to microplastic pollution.
Toxicity in food chain: The next argument against the use of plastic in clothes is even more alarming. As it is, plastic is very toxic in nature. In oceans, where it ends up as microplastic, it combines with other toxic substances like pesticides. This lethal combination is ingested by marine animals and, eventually, it ends up back on our plate.
Plastic, Plastic Everywhere - Is There a Solution?
Microfibers are just one of the many ways plastic is damaging the ocean ecosystem. Considering the amount of synthetic fibres we have created, this problem will need some serious commitment from the fashion industry and consumers alike. Here’s what we can do as consumers:
Choose Organic Fashion
A 2014 study indicates that organically produced natural fibers such as linen, wool and cotton, even if become a part of the marine environment, they won’t pose a threat to the ecosystem. They are biodegradable and free from toxic chemicals. So, buying organic clothing is the one of the best course of actions in our fight against microplastic pollution. You can easily identify organic materials by their certification. Also, by buying organic fashion you are guaranteeing that your clothing is free from harmful toxins, from the production stage to the factory to you.
Buy only what you need
Resist the temptation of impulse buying. In this age of fast fashion, most of us are guilty of buying way more clothes than we need. When buying your next pair of jeans or LBD, always consider if you really need it because each additional purchase you make has an impact on the environment.
Wash your synthetic clothes carefully
The synthetic garments you already own, such as leggings, bikinis, socks etc., should be placed in filter bags while washing in machine to capture microplastics. Also, if possible, minimize using washing machines for synthetic clothes as much as possible.
Repair if you care
If you really care for the environment, you should reuse and repair your old clothes. Don’t throw away your clothes. Repair tears, patch up holes, replace zips and do whatever you can so your clothes last. Alter the clothes that no longer fit you and upcycle your old clothes. The fewer clothes you buy, the lesser will be the waste. Simple!
When it comes to buying clothing these days, we’re caught up by a disturbing trend. Amidst discounts, rebates and sales, we often forget to consider what impact our choices will have on the planet and its inhabitants. It’s about time we start questioning where our clothes come from, what they’re made of, and what impact will they have on the environment.
Determination combined with a strong sustainability strategy, can help us drive the change. The first step towards that change is to switch to organic fashion. The good news is that you don’t have to waste your time looking for the best organic brand in India on Google, or trudging from shop to shop checking every label you see. Coastore has the best range of organic clothing and accessories that will make you look good and feel proud on your choices.