Whoa, are we wasteful consumers?
To keep up with today’s conventional standards, we knowingly or unknowingly consume, consume, consume. In fashion, we are especially wasteful. Just look into our closets. We are motivated by new enticing styles. Every season our closets update as the excess from last year’s styles have become outdated. Though our wallets deepen from this process, this cycle of change is exacerbated by the demand for cheap, fast fashion.
What fabrics are we wearing?
Since the creation of man-made fibers, the fashion industry has created innovative fabrics that imitate or surpass natural fibers. Technological advances has enabled the manipulation of the fiber structure so that it can resist static electricity, oil and water absorption, and wisk moisture away from the body without absorbing into the fiber. (Gail 2008, p 349). One of our most favorite man-made fibers, Polyester, has become a fabric of durability and easy care. These properties, along with the benefits of fast production and reduced costs, has allowed the manmade fiber industry to flourish.
Polyester, friend or foe?
Did you know that Polyester is the world’s largest manufactured fiber; second only to cotton? (Gail, 2008). We obviously love polyester. However, Polyester is derived from petroleum-based raw material. Polyester is created from the chemical reaction of acid and alcohol. The substance that emerges from this reaction is cast out in the form of a ribbon which is then cooled and cut into pallets that are sent to melt. The melted liquid is then forced through spinnerets that form fibers which are then stretched even further to produce our polyester thread.
Significant energy during the spinning process is needed. Overtime, this causes a significant strain on the environment. With its link to petroleum, Polyester production has a hand in the worlds depleting oil supplies. Polyester is also non-biodegradable, which causes a problem when you throw your old things out. Once it’s in a landfill, it will stay there for good.
Why put it in a landfill?
Why would put it in a landfill? Why? But our clothes are still going there anyways. “In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency noted that 4 million tons of textiles were going to the landfills each year.” (Hawley 2008, p 211) And they shouldn’t be there. “Because textiles are nearly 100 percent recyclable, nothing in the textile and apparel pipeline should be sent to landfills.” (Hawley 2008. P 208).
What can I do?
Your used clothing can be recycled into vintage markets, or donated to people who need it. Though polyester is not biodegradable, we can use existing used polyester fabrics it new polyester thread to be used for new designs! Even our trash can be recycled to produce fabrics. Existing Polyester clothing can also be recycled into new threads for new designs, without compromising the “quality” as the results are very similar to virgin polyester.
Did you know that these plastic soda bottles can be recycled in Polyester fibers?
The video below shows the process of collecting, sorting and cleaning plastic bottles.
Who uses recycled fibers?
Patagonia now uses used soda bottles, unusable manufacturing waste, and worn out garments to produce polyester fibers for their clothes. There are a big label committed to reducing their carbon impact by reducing the use of petroleum in producing new polyester fibers. Isn’t that cool?
Anomynous. (2006). Manufacturing Polyester. Available: http://www.whatispolyester.com/manufacturing.html. Last accessed 27 Oct 2014.
Baugh, G. (2008). Fibers: Clean and Green Fiber Options. In: Hethorn, J. Sustainable Fashion, Why Now? USA, Fairchild Book, 326-357.
Baugh, G. (2008). Polyester vs. Cotton — Which Is Better for the Environment?. Available: http://www.udel.edu/fiber/issue2/responsibility/. Last accessed 27 Oct 2014.
Doyle, S. Cotton International Magazine, suppl. Annual 2014 (2014): 62-63.
Hawley, J. (2008). Economic Impact of Textile and Clothing Recyclin. In: Hethorn, J. Sustainable Fashion, Why Now? USA, Fairchild Book, 207-232.