Hi! Welcome to my blog. Today I’m going to be chatting about micro plastics, why we need to stop buying fast fashion, consume less, and change our laundry habits
Whilst I am now more aware of the environmental impacts of fast fashion and the clothing industry, I spent the first 18 (ish) years of my life blissfully unaware of the impact my clothes shopping was having on the planet. I was always on the ASOS, Zara or H&M apps adding things to my basket for when payday came around.
Honestly, the majority of the clothes in my wardrobe are from fast fashion brands. Nowadays, I don’t buy from those brands however I continue to wear what I already have. In 2020, I’ve set myself a goal to buy no more than 12 items of clothing. I’ll only be buying vintage or, ethically and sustainably made if I can’t find what I need second-hand.
Related: My 2020 Sustainable Goals
The Facts and Stats On Plastic & Fashion
- 60% of clothes contain synthetic materials and fibres.
- In 2007, polyester became the world’s most used fibre over cotton.
- 35% of the 1.5 million tonnes of micro-plastics ( = to 50 million plastic bottles) released into the ocean each year are due to the washing of synthetic textiles.
- The fashion industry is the 2nd biggest polluter after oil.
- Acrylic, Polyester and Nylon are main 3 offenders found in our oceans and rivers.
Fast Fashion, Plastic Use & Greenwashing
Fast fashion brands such as H&M, ASOS and Mango have all released collections branded ‘conscious’ or ‘eco’. As consumers, we see these buzzwords which link to sustainability and think that these brands are making fashion green and mindful but we’re mistaken. These brands are actually Greenwashing which is when a company makes a misleading claim relating to being sustainable or eco-friendly.
In reality, these brands are churning out thousands of items a day (most ending up in landfill). These products are made from unsustainable fabrics such as plastics or conventionally farmed cotton and are made by workers who are subjected to low pay and unsafe conditions.
We have to slow fashion right down and think before we buy. High-street brands and online shopping has made it super easy to get that thrill of a new purchase.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before You Buy…
- Do I need this? If the answer is no or you’re unsure, don’t buy it. You can always come back to it later if it turns out you do need the item. You could also try to find it second-hand on sites such as Ebay or Depop – this is usually cheaper, too.
- Are you going to wear this more than 30 times? Say that you need a new jumper. You’ve seen one that’s bright yellow and super trendy but you normally only wear black. It might be better to invest in something that you know you will wear and that doesn’t follow a trend. As the amazing Lucy Siegle says, you should aim to buy things that you will actually wear. It’s better to spend a little more and invest in higher quality items which will last years than have to keep replacing something every few months.
- Can I find this pre-loved (or ethically/sustainably made)? If you can find the item second-hand or vintage, it’s much better for the environment and probably your wallet. Like most people, I don’t want to buy second-hand underwear (can you even find this? I’m not sure!). I buy that from brands like Organic Basics (Disclaimer – I’ve previously worked on a gifted basis with this brand in October 2019), Lara Intimates or Stripe & Stare. These brands tend to cost a little more upfront but do stand the test of time. M&S is also a relatively good high street brand if that works better for you.
- Is there a natural material alternative? Is this something that you can buy in organic cotton, hemp, lyocell or other natural fabrics? Look out for polyester, acrylic, lycra, nylon, spandex, polyester fleece, elastane or polyamide as they are all plastic. When buying shoes, try to find leather or rubber soles.
The Deal With Micro-Plastics
As I mentioned earlier, 35% of the 1.5 million tonnes of micro-plastics released into the ocean each year are due to the washing of our clothes. The majority of our clothes are made of plastic which makes it tough to totally stop these small plastics reaching our oceans and impacting the marine life. Here are a few things that you can do to reduce the amount of micro plastics released:
- Wash your clothes less. Not only is this better for your clothes, it also stops them being in a position to shred all those pesky fibers. Check out my post on making your clothes last longer for more information on the best way to wash them for the environment and the longevity of the garments. To reduce micro fiber shedding you should avoid tumble drying and wash at cold temperatures. If you can wash by hand then that’s best – but not everyone has the time!
- Buy less plastic in the first place. Invest in products made of the natural materials I mentioned above when you’re looking at buying. This can be tricky if you’re buying second-hand but if you’re buying new then be sure to check for plastic free options.
- Use a Guppy friend or Cora Ball. I’m a little bit unsure as to how affective these actually are at catching micro-fibers. There is evidence that suggests the Cora Ball stops 26% of micro-fibers from heading into the ocean. Guppy Friend (Affiliate Link) claim that their product stops 99% of the fibres.
Sadly, Clothes Made From Recycled Plastics Still Release Micro Plastics
Clothing and items made from recycled plastic bottles or clothes are such an amazing concept however they still release just as many micro plastics as any other containing garment would. I have a backpack made from recycled plastic bottles, and I think that items made from recycled plastic that you’re not going to be washing (eg. accessories, shoes, coats) are much better than buying from fast fashion brands – but just be mindful.
How Can We Minimise Our Wardrobes Impact?
Firstly, buying second-hand, vintage, renting clothes, swapping and wearing what you already have! By extending a garment’s lifetime by 9 months, you can reduce it’s impact by 20-30%.
If you’re having to buy new, then try to buy clothes which don’t contain plastic and are made sustainably – Good On You is a great site which rates brands on their eco credentials. Boycotting all new fast fashion is a great way to start your sustainable living journey, and trying to consume less in general is fab too.
So How Much Plastic Is In My Wardrobe?
I’m really curious to find out how much of my wardrobe is actually plastic, and what else it’s made up of. I have 20ish items in my Autumn/Winter capsule wardrobe at the moment. I’m excluding accessories and underwear just to make it a little easier so the main items are jackets, jumpers, jeans and t-shirts and I’ve checked the labels and done some maths.
Related: How To Create A Capsule Wardrobe
The Items In My Wardrobe:
I counted 16 items. Mainly t-shirts, jumpers, jeans & my leather jacket. Almost 90% of these are old fast fashion, one t-shirt is sustainably made and then my jacket is designer (arguably still fast fashion though). This is just my Autumn/Winter clothes.
Overall Material Composition: My wardrobe is 58% Cotton (mainly conventionally farmed, I only have one organic cotton tee), 26% plastic (acrylic, polyamide, polyester & elastane), 10% semi-synthetic materials (viscose, modal) and 6% other (leather, cashmere, etc)
The cotton in my wardrobe has probably used about 14,000 litres of water to produce, and 26% of my clothes are made from oil.
Thank you for reading! I hope that you found this useful and will be more mindful when doing laundry or shopping in the future. Even buying just one thing second-hand will have a major impact!
Do you buy second-hand? Were you aware of the Micro Plastic problem? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Bye for now x