If most of our clothes are now made out of polyester, which is a type of plastic, then why don’t we just turn old plastic bottles into new hi-vis jackets? Well, that’s exactly what Leo Workwear did with their EcoViz products.
Leo Workwear makes their EcoViz products from recycled plastic bottles and recycled post-consumer clothing. While this is a novel idea and a step in the right direction in terms of becoming more eco-friendly, is it really vital to global sustainability?
The Hidden Environmental Impact of Clothing
Believe it or not, the manufacturing of clothing results in 10% of global carbon emissions and 35% of the microplastic pollution in the ocean. Worse yet, 85% of all post-consumer clothing ends up in landfills. And since 60% of the materials used in the creation of clothing is plastic, these clothes will stay in those landfills for 500 years before decomposing.
Shouldn’t Manufacturers Stop Using Polyester?
Polyester can be a great material for clothes but the main reason it’s used is because it’s cheap and can be mass produced easily due to the availability of petroleum. Unfortunately, there is a hidden cost in using polyester and that’s the 500,000 tons of plastic microfibres that our washing machines release into the ocean each year.
So yes, in an ideal world, manufacturers should go back to using cotton and other natural sources of textiles. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and the production of polyester fibres is expected to increase by 47% in the next 10 years.
What Can You Do to Help?
The only way to force the hands of corporations is by talking with your wallet. By supporting products that are sustainably made like Leo Workwear’s EcoViz products, we can slowly but surely nudge them in the right direction. Now obviously it isn’t possible to only purchase sustainably manufactured clothing, at least not yet. So there are other ways you can help.
While manufacturers are to blame for the oversupply of polyester clothing, the biggest environmental impact of clothing actually happens post-purchase. It’s the constant purchase and rapid disposal of these clothes that cause the most damage.
In fact, a study from the Barnardo’s Environmental Protection Agency found that 33% of respondents in the UK define old clothes as those that have been worn once or twice. We need to move away from this mindset and start purchasing high-quality clothing that we can wear for years if not decades.