Polyester Pollutes Oceans

Polyester Pollutes Oceans

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword. The McKinsey State of Fashion 2019 said this is the first year it ranked as a top priority for the apparel industry. It is increasingly difficult to ignore the effects of apparel production and waste. The industry has regulated chemicals, created new eco-friendly fibers and are seeking more green practices. Interestingly enough, there is a new, unexpected source of adverse environmental impact.

New Pollution Sources

Apparel production is notoriously polluting, but now there’s more. The new culprit is the maintenance of apparel products, most notably polyester. In fact, these effects are enough to have the government step in. As a consequence, California proposed a bill that would require a warning label on clothing comprised of over 50% polyester, according to Sourcing Journal Online. If this legislature passes, then the sale of apparel without it will be illegal by 2020.

It’s a “tumultuous period for polyester,” stated EcoTextile News. This backlash is due to the discovery that the fiber can shed 1,900 microfibers per wash. These polyester microfibers are escaping through filters and into the water supply. Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica cited research from UC Davis detailing how “25% of fish and a third of shellfish” sampled at California fish markets contained plastic debris. Moreover, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicted that “The world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.”

Preventative Measures for Polyester

Ultimately, completely eradicating polyester from the supply chain is not feasible. Although, some measures can be taken when washing polyester products. The Plastic Pollution Coalition shares that hand washing clothing significantly reduces the number of microfibers shed. Also, laundering items in garment bags and using liquid soap helps minimize abrasion.

Luckily, The Hohenstein Institute is studying how to reduce the emission of these microfibers through technology and testing. We are reaching a crucial point in the fight for sustainability; awareness and demand for change from consumers will be what creates further change in the industry.

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Author: Christine Duff

Christine wants to live in a world filled with cutting edge fashion, beautiful words and and an endless supply of leather jackets and boots. A product development grad of FIDM, she was the Editor-in-Chief of MODE Magazine where she reignited her love of storytelling. She has diverse experience within the industry with trend research, art direction and styling editorial spreads. She gained her most notable experience working in Los Angeles at the satellite operation for GQ and Vogue Thailand. Christine is passionate about social science and the role it plays in the consumer goods industry and apparel in particular.