During Fashion Revolution Week 2020, the charity are asking us to investigate #whatsinmyclothes? I sell vintage fabrics, so instead I’ve been looking into what’s in my fabric? Researching the most common fibres in our clothes; how they are made and their effects on the environment. Polyester is in 60% of our clothes in the UK and makes up 51% of all the fibres produced globally. It doesn’t require as much water to produce as Cotton but overall it has a more negative effect on our planet; ‘A polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt.’ Fixing Fashion, UK Government Audit Committee 2019
Polyester Key Facts
What’s Next for Polyester?
Plastic fibres have been in mass production since the middle of the 20th Century and increasing in use ever since. At last year’s Fashion Question Time, Laura Balmond, Project Manager for Make Fashion Circular (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) stated ‘[In 2018] there were 100m tonnes of fibres that were produced for all textiles. Over 60% of those are plastic based so it is difficult to swap out like for like. Where would we find 60 billion tonnes of natural fibres from as soon as you needed them?’. It isn’t as simple as immediately swapping the global fibre production to a more sustainable source.
UK charity, WRAP, are funding projects to find new innovations in plastics recycling, including Polyester textiles. They are looking for a ‘state of the art’ solution to this growing problem. Currently, only 1% of textiles are recycled into new clothing, mostly because there isn’t the technology or the logistics to manage this. There is also the problem that once plastic (inc Polyester) has been recycled it is difficult to recycle it again as it becomes a much weaker substrate.
We don’t have to wait for this new technology, we can make a change now. We can buy less new products, swapping to vintage, secondhand or deadstock fabrics. When we do buy new textiles, switch to organic or recycled. When washing fabrics that contain Polyester or other forms of plastic fibres it is important to wash them in a Guppy Friend Bag. This helps prevent microplastics from reaching our seas and oceans.
Tomorrow I will be looking into Viscose, another popular fibre in our fabrics. Find out what I learnt about Cotton earlier this week. Or if you don’t know what fibres are in your fabrics, a fibre burn test will help you investigate.