Ever since the legend that is David Attenborough gave us a stern talking to about our plastic consumption, the UK has been obsessed with banishing the stuff from our lives. I think this lesson came at a time the world was ready to hear it, and we’re seeing some really big changes with companies change how they package products, more zero-waste shops popping up and most people trying to switch to reusables.
While these changes are very welcome, one of the biggest problems with plastic we’re facing is the amount we find in our clothes. The most common types of plastic clothing we use are polyester, vinyl, nylon, spandex, acrylic, and acetate.
Some of the main issues with plastic fashion are:
· Microfibres – miniscule pieces of plastic fibres that come out in water/general use from the production stages to our own washing. They pollute the oceans and are ingested by sea life.
· Plastic is not biodegradable or compostable – synthetic fabrics like polyester can survive for hundreds of years on landfill.
· Mixed fabrics are difficult to recycle – lots of fabric is created by combining synthetic and natural fibres together to create superior materials, such as polycotton (polyester and cotton). It’s a real challenge to separate these fibres when trying to recycle a garment made of mixed fabrics.
So what can we do about this?
Well, firstly, the best thing you can do is dramatically reduce the amount of new clothing you buy. Doesn’t sound appealing to a lot of people but trust me, all the clothes we will ever need are already in circulation! Finding clothes in thrift stores, vintage shops and at clothes swaps, is so much more satisfying than buying something off the high street that loads of other girls will be buying that day too. Why look like everyone else when you can style yourself how YOU really want to look? Read my blog post about buying less clothes, there’s a great link to some great thrift stores in Bristol!
When you do buy new clothing (which is totally fine – don’t feel like you can’t buy yourself a treat every now and then!) try and opt for natural, cruelty-free, fabrics instead of plastics. Here’s a list of fabrics that come from plants or natural sources (but don’t cost the lives of animals!):
· Cotton (organic)
· Tencel (Lyocell), Rayon and Modal (these three are “regenerated cellulosic fibers” made from wood pulp)
I did include cotton, but please try and only buy organic cotton as it doesn’t use chemicals and pesticides to grow and uses less water than regular cotton.
It’s important to know that natural fibres are not without their own issues, such as water consumption, land use, growers/producers rights, etc. In the vegan fashion world, we’re often questioned on the use of plastics in creating alternatives to materials like leather, wool, silk and cashmere. I was once told by someone that they preferred a wool jumper to a plastic jumper because “if they buried it in the ground it would disappear, and the plastic one wouldn’t.”, to which I replied “well, don’t bury your clothes then, problem solved!”. While I did respond with a hint of sarcasm, it is a point to consider; the biodegradable argument really only applies if you’re planning on throwing away your clothes. If you think about a piece of clothing as something you’re going to wear for life, then when it eventually breaks beyond repair or loses it’s purpose, you turn it into something new or recycle the fabric, you’ve avoided the need to throw it on landfill.
So, when you’re out shopping for a new top for summer or a pair of jeans to replace the ones that don’t fit anymore, have a look at the label and see what that item is made of. It may shock you to see how much around us is made from plastic. As always, you can’t go wrong if you simply buy less, choose well and make it last (thanks again, Viv, for the best quote in fashion history!) – and try to opt for natural, vegan materials!
Here are some examples of fashion companies that provide natural material clothing and accessories…
dresses are so gorgeous and you get a really good quality piece of clothing for your money, something that will last a long time. They use organic cotton, linen, rayon, bamboo, hemp and Tencel – take your pick!