When you think of “plastic pollution” in our oceans, you are likely thinking of water bottles, toys, straws, bags, etc. washing up on the shore, like the picture below. But did you know most of the plastic pollution that hurts our sea life is actually something you can’t see? Did you know you are likely wearing it right now?
What is Virgin Plastic? Did You Know You Might Be Wearing It?
Yes this plastic above is a problem but only 6% of the harmful plastic is actually visible to the eye. Many of the clothes you own and wear have microscopic, hairlike plastic fibers woven into the fabric. Especially clothes made by the fast fashion industry. Some facts to be concerned about:
- According to research, in 2016 65 million tons of plastic was produced for textile fibers.
- Plastic is in clothing made from synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon and nylon.
- Fast fashion relies on virgin plastic production. 63% of the materials in 2015 were made from virgin plastic compared to 3% from recycled plastic.
- It is estimated that more than half of fast fashion produced is disposed of in under a year. (McKinsey & Company, Style that’s sustainable: A new fast- fashion formula 2016)
Why Should You Care?
You should care because eventually not only will it impact the ocean you swim in but the food you eat, the water you drink, the air you breathe and thus your overall health. We should care about oceans because scientists say between 50% – 80% of the oxygen produced on Earth, you know the stuff we need to live, is created by oceans. If the oceans die, life on planet Earth dies. So as they say “it’s kind of a big deal”.
What are the solutions? Well that’s a tough question because the problem is SOOO freaking big. The solutions are complex and hard and will take the fashion industry, government, researchers and consumers coming together to solve it. But there are two basic things that need to happen.
- INNOVATE: We Must Replace Plastic. We need to come up with something that’s less harmful to our environment. Easy peasy right? By now, you know I’m being sarcastic. Cutting out plastics seems impossible. Did you know that plastic is in your tea bags, food containers, computers, TV’s, nylon socks, fleece jackets, acrylic sweaters, heat and water resistant safety wear, just to name a few things. If we get rid of plastic it’d be like jumping back in the mid-1800’s.
That said, plastic is so bad! It costs more energy to produce plastic than oil and IF, yes I said “IF” it degrades, it takes forever. Literally hundreds of years. So we need to innovate. That’s not going to be easy and it’s going to take time. But here are some exciting updates to prove people are trying to innovate a way out of the problem.
- Fashion brand Tom Ford has come up with a $1 million dollar award to any innovator, entrepreneur, scientist who can come up with the best non-toxic alternative to single use plastic. The fashion industry not only uses plastic in clothing but in packaging.
- Scientists and engineers are trying to come up with alternatives such as: liquid wood, algae insulation, and polymer substitutes made from fermented plant starch such as corn or potatoes, for example. Stone wool could replace fibreglass insulation. Mushrooms could replace the need for plastic for things like protective packaging, insulation, acoustic insulation, furniture, aquatic materials and even leather goods.
2. RECYCLE: Everyone MUST Use Recycled plastic. There is NO reason to make NEW plastic.
We need to STOP using plastic altogether. But in the meantime, until we figure out better solutions, we should only be using recycled plastic. Here are some examples of companies doing just that:
- Stella McCartney is eliminating plastic in her collections and using only recycled polyester and materials that have been upycled.
- Everlane, Adidas, Rothy’s, Patagonia, Outerknown, Timberland and H&M have all started incorporating recycled plastic.
- Use “ocean plastic”. Brands are using recycled plastic that has literally been pulled from the ocean. Bits and pieces of old soda bottles and fishing nets are now in sneakers made by Sperry, handbags from Rothy’s, bikini’s from Reformation, sunglasses from Norton Point, leggings from Girlfriend Collective and trend coats for Burberry. (According to Business of Fashion)
- Prada plans to phase out virgin nylon and use “regenerated” nylon used from reclaimed fishing nets. (According to Business of Fashion).
Plastic Lives Forever! Once it's Created it's Here to Stay.
3. EDUCATE: Consumers Must Engage. Consumers must do their part to reduce their use of plastic and to support sustainable brands doing the same. Learn how you can do your part. For example, you can buy second hand and still look incredibly stylish. See the picture below.
What Else Can You Do to Help?
- Educate yourself about your buying/shopping habits that go beyond replacing plastic bags with recycled totes
- Buy less
- Buy higher quality, things that will last forever
- Identify brands who are taking sustainability seriously and buy your products from those companies
- Never throw away good clothes, donate them
- Do NOT support fast fashion
- Try to buy fabrics made out of natural fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, bamboo and lyocell
If you have any questions, please contact me at LexySilverstein@gmail.com.
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