What Is The Future Of Recycled Plastic in Fashion?

Plastic wasteSource: Wikimedia

Many of us want to be more ecologically conscious in our approach to reducing our carbon footprints. You might choose to buy sustainably sourced food, pick up litter on your jogging sessions – so-called plogging – or even aim to hit the jackpot at a mobile casino on your iPad rather than travel to a bricks and mortar one in a nearby city, for example. Regardless of the environmentally friendly decisions you may make in your daily life, what the world has been waiting for is better ways of reprocessing plastic. So much of it ends up in the ocean because it is not recycled. That which is successfully reprocessed has tended to been used to make low grade packaging which does not have a long onward life.

However, plastics can be recycled in more meaningful ways when they are used in the fashion industry. Can fashion really offer us methods to reuse plastic that will genuinely help to improve the environment for everyone? Read on to find out about some of the novel methods the fashion industry has developed for reprocessing used plastics.

Econyl Yarn

Designer Stella McCartneySource: mainichi.jp

Nylon is used in the manufacturing processes of all sorts of garments for decades. The trouble is that so much of it has been in single-use products. However, an Italian company named Aquafil has come up with a Nylon-like yarn which can replace it entirely. The first major benefit of this is that no new petrochemicals are needed to make the yarn – it is entirely derived from recycled plastics. What’s even more important is that the material can be recycled once the garment it is in has come to the end of its usable life. In other words, a sustainable yarn that can be recycled and recycled. The material is already in use by swimsuit manufacturers, such as Adidas, Zoggs and Speedo. Econyl was also presented in Stella McCartney’s Summer Collection for 2019.

Smaller Brands Gain An Edge

Kelly Slater's Outerknown label Source: Magicseaweed.com

Although there is certainly a welcome shift among the big clothing makers and major fashion designers, using recycled plastics in garments remains something that smaller fashion brands can harness to market themselves. Often more adaptable to micro-trends in the industry, smaller operators have often led the way in fashion ecology. This is certainly the case with recycled plastics in clothes.

For instance, Kelly Slater’s Outerknown label is one that may not be a household name around the world. However, it has gained a great deal of praise among ecologists and consumers alike for its use of found plastic waste in its range. Likewise, the ReNew collection for Everlane met with a great many favourable comments when it launched because it made use of water bottles as a source material. Everlane also committed to remove single-use plastics from its supply chain for things like packaging. The line includes puffers, fleeces and parkas, which are all remarkably natural in appearance and feel.

Elsewhere, small fashion brands like Insecta – an otherwise little-known footwear maker from Brazil – has gained notoriety for making new products without leather, using a combination of recycled plastic and rubber instead for its shoes. Patagonia, the outdoor wear brand, has also led the way with the use of recycled plastics in its fleeces. Not only are plastics repurposed by the company, but used garments can be returned to the firm for further recycling.

How Can You Help?

Plastic in the oceanSource: Flickr

One of the most important ways you can help the world face up to the undoubted challenge of plastics entering the globe’s oceans and ending up in the food chain is to refrain from buying products with single-use plastics in them in the first place. This means no more one-off water bottles and buying vegetables in paper bags, not plastic ones. In addition, you can choose to purchase clothes, which are derived from recycled and recyclable man-made fibres. After all, fashion brands are certainly offering enough choice these days and they will continue to do so as long as the market for recycled plastic in garments makes financial sense. When you have finished with an item of clothing, don’t throw it out but make sure it is offered to a second-hand retailer or a charity shop.

If you are considering buying clothes and want to check out how ethical the brand you are choosing might be, then you can also check quite easily nowadays. Apps like Good On You and DoneGood rate global brands – including fashion ones – on things like their carbon footprints which help you to make an informed decision.

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