Not just cutlery, shopping bags, gloves or straws, the plastic it is also present in wardrobes and is worn by millions of people every day. According to a study published by the BBC, one in 2 animals is made up of plastic: 49% of the 10,000 products examined, in fact, are entirely made of polyester, acrylic, nylon and elastane.
Economic, versatile and durable synthetic fibers, but which require enormous amounts of energy to be produced and contribute significantly to the release of microplastics in water, air and, consequently, also in the human body.
If you add to all this wrong consumption habits, the threat to the environment becomes even more concrete: an example is the “throw away culture”, a phenomenon closely linked with fast fashion which consists in buying new clothes and throwing them away after a short time or at the slightest sign of wear. But if the clothes produced by fast fashion, as the name indicates, are characterized by being quick to change, the same cannot be said for the times of disposal of the fabrics that compose them.
What to do then?
A false panacea, according to the Financial Times, is to opt for clothes and accessories made from recycled plastic: contrary to what one might think, this solution could cause more harm than good. In fact, if it is used for garments of clothing, there is no way to recycle it again plastic and thus ends its life cycle. Furthermore, it does not contribute to stemming the problem of microplastics that will be released in any case during the production, washing and disposal of synthetic fibers. Among false friends of the environmentAccording to the scientific magazine Popular Science, there are also PU materials, better known as imitation leather, made with thermoplastic polymers or PVC, materials that for their production require large amounts of energy, water and chemicals.
But what are the alternatives available to create a wardrobe sustainable? According to Annalisa De Piano, co-founder of Be Green Tannery, a Campania tannery strongly oriented towards sustainability, one possible way is to choose materials that can last over time and that, once they reach their end of life, have the least possible impact. on the environment: “Often multiple responsibilities are attributed to leather: from the ethics deriving from the use of animals, to the consumption of resources in order to support farms, to the pollution of the tanning industries. As a result, the skin is labeled as not sustainable, while this is not the case at all. First of all, the tanning sector is the first link in a circular economy: what we do, in fact, is to ennoble a waste product of the food industry. In fact, with or without the tanning industry, slaughter will certainly not decrease. By recovering and working the waste leather, we prevent it from turning into a polluting waste, dangerous for the environment and for our health, giving it a second life. And in our case even a third one since, not containing heavy metals, the ashes deriving from the Be Green Tannery brand products generate an unarmed compost with multiple applicability “.
Not just leather, however, the textile industry is also mobilizing. To do this, there are those who have chosen not to invest in futuristic solutions, but to take a step back and start from nature: as the BBC tells us, starting from the observation of lotus leaves, a natural fabric was created in Sweden and water repellent, which allows you to avoid the use of chemicals to create raincoats. Good news also comes from India: according to Al Jazeera, the Asian country is investing in jute, a material that has been considered poor for years, but which is also favored by some other fashion houses. The advantages? One hectare of jute crops absorbs 15 tons of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tons of oxygen in a single season, helping to clean the air. Also, unlike cotton, it requires less water. “We need to go beyond the idea that sustainability in the fashion world is just a passing trend – continues Annalisa De Piano – We must act immediately by making more responsible choices not only when shopping, but also when buying a garment. Often you don’t see how much work there is behind a sustainable product: be careful all’ambiente and to the people who make it, use of renewable energy and much more “.
That of the pollution deriving from the plastic it is a phenomenon that could even triple in the next twenty years and that now affects every corner of the globe: according to the journal Nature, in fact, 40 particles of microplastics per cubic meter are concentrated in the Arctic ocean; of these, the vast majority come from polyester. A problem to which the sector also contributes clothing: according to a study carried out by some researchers from the University of California and published in 2020, 167 thousand tons of plastic fibers are dumped into the seas as a result of washing clothes by hand or in the washing machine. To limit this phenomenon, National Geographic magazine recommends not exceeding the temperature of 30 ° and favoring liquid detergent, since powder detergent has an abrasive effect on the fibers. And don’t forget that the plastic it is not only harmful to the environment, but also for health: a recent research developed by the University of New York and published in the journal Environmental Pollution, has shown the link between some premature deaths and exposure to phthalates (chemical compounds used mainly for the production of PVC) .
The fabrics to wear to say goodbye to plastic
Finally, here are the 10 materials to wear for a wardrobe plastic free:
- Jute: a poor material, but increasingly in vogue, is able to absorb 15 tons of carbon dioxide and releases 11 tons of oxygen in a single season, helping to clean the air.
- Leather: made from waste products, it is part of a recycling economy. But be careful to choose metal free leather, with a low impact on the environment.
- Products that take the moves of nature: to avoid the plastics, you can observe nature. An example? A product that, inspired by lotus leaves, allows you to create water-repellent garments.
- Lyocell: a textile fiber extracted from the cellulose of the eucalyptus plant.
- Materials dyed with natural dyes: as the Financial Times recalls, many designers are returning to their origins using vegetable dyes to dye fabrics, as was done until the mid-19th century. A much less polluting method.
- Cuttlefish teeth: researchers from Penn State University have managed to discover the enormous potential of this part of the mollusk which, thanks to the proteins that make it up, is very similar to silk.
- Coffee: as reported by the English version of Fashion United, a creative Finnish startup has managed to make tennis shoes using coffee grounds. Each pair consists of 21 cups.
- Cupro: as reported by El País, it is one of the trendy materials for next season. Its origins go back to 1987 and it is made with recycled raw materials such as cotton.
- Linen: a comfortable, versatile and above all biodegradable material composed of 70% cellulose.
- Sugar cane: used for clothes and recently also for masks. In fact, a Taiwanese company has managed to create personal protective equipment with this natural material.