Plastic is weaved into the fabric. Your socks. Your underwear. Your activewear. Even if you make sure you wear everything organic cotton, it's in there. Globally, about 60% of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide is made from petroleum (petroleum makes plastic).
Why you shouldn't wear plastic?
Simply, it goes to the ocean, but you can't even see it.
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. These fibres are so tiny: less than 5 millimeters long; diameters measured in micrometers. They are called microplastics.
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 these bastards, which we released, are threatening the sea creatures, the ocean ecosystem, the food chain and our health. Yep, they end up in our food.
*Source: wikipedia (2014)
What are the plastics in my clothes?
If your garment contain any synthetic fibres, it means it has plastics. Check your labels:
- Polyester is one of the most popular man-made 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 coating on the 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.
Is vegan leather plastic free?
The most common leather alternative is made from plastic-based polyurethane chloride (PVC) and polyurethane (PU). Plant-based vegan leather 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 to the waterways. Just don't throw it the bin and let it end up in landfill.
Should I wear t-shirt 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 garment is made from 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 is very expensive to produce. That's why it's best to shop with brands that show 100% transparency and commitments.
This article is produced as part of our Plastic Free July 2020 collaobration with Citizen Wolf. For more information, head to ReCo x Citizen Wolf.
Photography: Jason de Plater.