Today, synthetic fibers dominate our closets and landfills. Despite advances in apparel recycling, we still generate thousands of tons of textile waste that cannot be recycled due to the nature of the materials used in their manufacture. They are produced from petroleum derivatives, and represent more than 69% of the inputs used in apparel manufacturing worldwide.
What happens when we discard garments that are composed of synthetic fibers?
The use of synthetic fibers in apparel manufacturing presents a huge challenge when it comes to recycling the tons of waste we generate. Over-consumption, planned obsolescence, and the short lifespan we give our garments is creating a problem that can no longer be buried underground.
Polyester represents 56% of the total synthetic fibers used, not to mention nylon, acrylic and elastane.
On average, such a product survives in landfills for more than 200 years, where it is constantly leaching chemicals, shedding microfibers and releasing methane as it decomposes.
Why it is important to read the label of each garment
Polyester has been increasingly incorporated with other materials, abounding in infinite mixtures in a single textile. The most common compositions we can find, such as cotton and polyester or acrylic and wool, are generally accompanied by mixtures of elastane, lurex yarns, and vinyl.
This creates added complexity to waste management for proper recycling. The more ingredients there are in your clothing, the less recycling possibilities there are.
IN SPAIN ONLY 20% OF TEXTILE WASTE IS RECYCLED.
In addition to the impact it generates during its production and "end of life", polyester releases microplastic fibers with its use. Improper laundering of polyester clothing can dump up to 700,000 microplastic fibers into the ocean, which can reach the food chain. Our clothing releases half a million tons of microfibers into the ocean each year, which is equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles dumped into the ocean each year.
At the current rate of consumption, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean.
What are the habits that need to be reinforced?
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to the ►podcast of SlowFashionEs, an interesting conversation between Belen Loredo, creator of the podcast, interviewing Nadège, coordinator of Fashion Revolution Spain.
I stayed with the phrase "Look at the label to know the ingredients of your clothes".
It made me reflect on how important it is to read the composition labels and understand them, when choosing a T-shirt, a pair of jeans or a jacket. Like when you take the time in the supermarket to check the products you are going to consume, how many carbohydrates there are, what is the percentage of sugar, how much salt it contains.
The first thing you have to know how to detect is what is a fabric, what is a fabric and what is a fiber. The latter is the one that is shown as a percentage on the composition label and to which we should pay more attention.
The most important thing to take into account to know what our clothes are made of, is to know the fibers with which they have been produced, and consequently we will know the raw material from which they come from. (see article on sustainable fabrics)
If we focus on the ingredients, we must have a clear traceability of the raw material used for the manufacture of clothing. This will allow us to know where it comes from, the working conditions, the natural resources that are usually used in its processing, and the dimension of the impact generated by each garment.
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