This plastic-free July, we wanted to talk about material choices in the clothes we wear.
Choosing and using the right fibres and materials is key to limiting the far-ranging implications for the biosphere.
The conduct of the fashion industry does not only affect ecosystems, but also brings risks for farmers working in fields and workers in factories. The impact can range from health implications of the use of hazardous chemicals, to unsafe working conditions and inconsistent income.
Polyester is a textile technologist’s dream come true. It is a low-cost fibre, readily available, and durable. It also has technical performance properties that cannot be replicated using natural materials only. Due to these, among other reasons, polyester was the single most popular fibre worldwide in 2020 (52 per cent).
However, polyester is made from oil, it is energy intensive, and its sheer quantity contributes significantly to today’s global waste problem. In addition, it can end up in the natural environment in the shape of “microplastics” or small plastic particles that may pose a high risk to human and marine health.
Globally, between 200,000 and 500,000 tonnes of synthetic fibres from textiles are released into the marine environment each year. The washing of synthetic fibres, such as polyester, causes up to 35 per cent of all plastic microfibre pollution in the oceans. Furthermore, the way synthetics and other chemically intensive materials are manufactured today can involve hazardous working conditions.
If brands want to keep using polyester and other synthetic fibres (and there is every indication that they do) things will have to change. New and innovative ways of working with these materials must be developed and implemented, from sourcing and decent working conditions to waste management.
Download your copy of the GFA Monitor here.
Through our Innovation Forum, we connect fashion companies with sustainable solution providers; we explored some of the newest technologies and innovations to help combat the most pressing issues of the fashion industry right now.
Keep reading to find out more about some of our solution providers
Natural Fiber Welding is a material innovation company helping the industry use inherently circular, natural materials. They fundamentally changing the way materials are made with novel technologies for bonding, mixing, and forming plant-based inputs into sustainable, high-performance materials.
InResST is a low-carbon company that focuses on the feasibility research, development, production and promotion of ocean plastics used in textiles. Their recycled nylon staple fiber products are mainly derived from ghost fishing nets, generated by deep-sea fishery activities, recycling by a mechanical way which are then produced by a zero-carbon factory.
Recyctex is a textile innovation company specialising in sustainable fabrics. Their core products are made from ReTraze yarn, a branded recycled and traceable material in thw form of recycled nylon and upcycling from abandoned ghost fishnets and plastic collected from islands and mountains. In 2022, they launched BioPlanTex, a bio-based and plant-based leather alternative vegan material.
Upcycle Labs turns fashion’s biggest problem – waste – into additional revenue for brands and retailers. Their innovative technology turns fashion waste into products and produces quality contemporary décor, shop fittings and interior related products made of discarded fashion inventory from luxury brands.
Balena is a material science company, developing compostable and biodegradable thermoplastic materials. They are on a mission to create a circular model for consumer goods products and solve one of the fashion industry’s biggest challenges: the products’ end of life.
Millions of garments are being dumped into landfills or being burnt every year, polluting the earth and the oceans with dangerous microplastics that will not biodegrade for hundreds of years. Balena’s answer to this is BioCir™ material. BioCir™ is a flexible and fully compostable thermoplastic material, reducing toxic, fossil fuel-based materials used in the fashion and footwear industries.
Explore the entire innovation forum here.