Wearing recycled water bottles is now as simple as drinking from one. Recycled water bottles, whether in the form of a bikini, a puffer jacket, or leggings, have become the material that makes up much of sustainable fashion.
Since the early 1990s, Patagonia has been using recycled water bottles. What’s new is that we can now produce a wider selection of fabrics from recycled water bottles. Colourful patterned yoga pants, technical cold-weather clothing, and even denim-blend fabrics are all available under this sustainable fashion trend.
Let’s look at us some facts and figures
According to the World Wildlife Fund, a single plastic bottle takes 450 years to degrade, and according to Reuters research released in 2019, almost 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. In the United States alone, 1,500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second, with a recycling rate of 27.9% for PET bottles in the United States in 2019. The fashion industry saw the potential in these recycled water bottles, and with sustainability and sustainable fashion being a priority for most businesses in 2021 and beyond, the notion of making clothing out of waste has been swiftly adopted.
Is it really a sustainable fashion trend?
Some environmentally conscious people have questioned if recycled water bottles can genuinely be considered sustainable fashion. And this is genuinely something to be thought about. After all, plastic is created from petroleum, therefore a garment made entirely of organic cotton is preferable to one made entirely of plastic, recycled or not. Furthermore, the issue of polyester microfibers in the seas is concerning.
For vegan-based sustainable fashion enthusisats, when fashion manufacturers pledge to use no animal products, they are essentially pledging to use synthetics. Because synthetic or semi-synthetic alternatives to real fur, wool, silk, and leather are the only possibilities.
Polyester – Is it beneficial?
Polyester produced from recycled water bottles is an excellent option for the majority of us. It’s also possible that committing to exclusively purchasing fabrics manufactured with recycled polyester will make a difference. It costs a little bit more for the companies that use it, but your decision to use recycled polyester encourages companies to keep sourcing more of it, which creates a market for recycled water bottles, which makes recycling programmes more cost-effective for cities to implement, and even funds programmes that remove plastic from the ocean.
The argument for manufacturers to include recycled plastic water bottles in their gear is simple: recycling is a more environmentally responsible option, they argue. Though bottles aren’t the only type of plastic used to make sustainable fashion clothes (used fishing nets are another popular option), they are one of the most frequent.
Polyester, even when recycled, still creates environmental concerns. Emerging studies into microplastics, which are small particles shed from synthetic fabrics like polyester every time they’re washed or worn, has sparked some of the most serious worries about their usage in recent years. Plastic microbeads are rapidly making their way into human food, air, and water sources.
Girlfriend Collective, a cult favourite sustainable fashion label that manufactures roughly 80% of its apparel from recycled polyester sourced from plastic bottles, acknowledges that microplastics are a concern. This sustainable fashion brand even offers a microfiber filter on its website, similar to Reformation and Patagonia, which is designed to trap microplastics coming out of your washing machine before they wind out in the ocean. However, many believe that the problem is simply too large for any approach to be sufficient on its own. Fibers can be released when you wear clothes when you wash clothes, during their manufacturing and so on.
Microplastic contamination isn’t the only factor that puts doubt on polyester manufactured from recycled plastic bottles’ environmental promises. There’s also the thorny issue of recycling logistics to consider. Because there is robust bottle collecting mechanisms in place, plastic bottles are recycled so often. If old bottles aren’t transformed into clothes, they may be made into new bottles, which can then be recycled when they’re no longer usable.
End-of-life collecting mechanisms for clothes, on the other hand, are not nearly as robust, which implies that old garments are far less likely to be recycled into new ones.
This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that recovered polyester is frequently mixed with other materials like cotton, making it even more difficult to separate and recycle in the future. While brands like Girlfriend Collective and firms like Unifi are working to increase textile-to-textile recycling, it’s still more of a pipe dream than a scalable reality right now.
Even though microplastics take a long time to disintegrate, natural fabrics like cotton can shed microfibers. Given the heavy chemicals and poisonous colours used in so much clothing, natural microfibers may create issues as well, even if they don’t persist as long as synthetic microfibers. Furthermore, part of the transition to a more sustainable fashion industry entails producing and purchasing fewer items but expecting them to last a long time — which means that certain types of apparel, such as performance sportswear, may make sense to manufacture from synthetic materials if that is the most durable way to make them.
Overall, less polyester is better for the environment. However, if it is going to be utilised, it should be created from recycled materials.