We’re now over halfway through Plastic-free July, a time to reflect and cut back on our plastic consumption. When we pledge to make plastic-free switches, we usually start with replacing single-use cutlery or disposable toiletries. What remains hidden is the plastic we wear every day. In this blog, we’ll cover fashion’s plastic problem and what we’re doing to kick the industry’s addiction.
What is plastic fashion?
Without realising, the vast majority of us will have plastic hanging up in our wardrobes. Polyester, nylon, lycra, elastane and PVC are popular plastic fibres. Thanks to their affordability, versatility and ability to mimic the feel of wool, linen and silk, these synthetic fibres dominate fashion production, totalling 69% of clothing output. Polyester is the most common and makes up 52% of all fibre production. For fast fashion brands like Boohoo and ASOS, 50% of their garments contain plastic.
Why is plastic fashion a problem?
Fossil fuels in disguise
Fashion’s reliance on plastic is alarming, especially when you realise where these fibres come from and where they ultimately end up. Derived from crude oil, plastic clothing is essential fossil fuels in disguise. Every year, textile production accounts for 1.35% of global oil production. That’s 342 million annual barrels of petroleum, more oil than Spain uses in a year!
As the UK braces itself for a dangerous heatwave, it’s easier to see the links between the clothes we wear and rising global temperatures. The production of synthetic fashion requires large amounts of energy, contributing to the industry’s excessive carbon footprint. With plastic materials expected to make up nearly 75% of all textiles by 2030, the fashion industry is doing little to curb the demand for oil and gas extraction.
Plastic fibres don’t ever fully biodegrade, instead breaking up into millions of microscopic hair-thin fibres. When a plastic-based garment is washed at home, it can shed up to 700,000 individual microfibres. Fashion’s favourite, polyester, sheds approximately 6 times more microplastics than nylon. These synthetic fibres enter our waterways, are ingested by fish, are then ingested by us and even end up in the placentas of unborn babies. Microfibre pollution is a growing problem, with over a third of ocean microplastics originating from synthetic textiles.
Growing landfill waste
When you produce an item of plastic clothing, you can guarantee it will remain on earth for hundreds of years. Outliving its creators, plastic is incredibly hard to decompose, but that doesn’t stop fast fashion brands churning out low-quality clothing which will prematurely end up in the bin.
Dubbed “the single most damaging type of plastic”, PVC production requires the use of injurious plasticisers and gives off dioxins, a carcinogenic by-product. When left to rot in landfill, PVC releases poisonous chlorine gas into the atmosphere. It is not the only plastic fibre to pollute the local environment when breaking down.
The recycling question
Technically, a polyester garment can be recycled into another item of clothing. We say technically because often polyester is blended with other natural fibres such as cotton, making it virtually impossible to separate the materials for recycling. When recycling is possible, it is a one-time only deal; plastic fashion cannot be indefinitely recycled as each process weakens the fibre.
A growing trend is to recycle post-consumer plastic waste into clothing, but even this is highly contested. The Changing Markets Foundation argue that the transformation of plastic bottles into fibre only adds to fashion’s waste crisis. Specifically, it removes plastic bottles from circular recycling loops. While plastic bottles can be recycled again and again, plastic clothing cannot, instead embarking on a “one-way route to landfill”. Equally troubling is the growing number of greenwashed recycled collections which distract from the fashion industry’s far greater reliance on virgin plastics and fossil fuels.
Why our clothing is 100% plastic-free
With so much plastic already on the planet (and millions of tonnes more waiting to be produced), we don’t want to contribute to the fashion industry’s plastic addiction. Beyond the environmental urgency to source plastic-free alternatives, we only work with natural materials that are breathable, durable and perfectly suited for our versatile loungewear. That’s why our clothing is free from plastic, down to the finishings. Let’s explore these different components in detail.
Our incredibly soft signature fabric is made of 76% organic cotton and 24% linen. Our organic cotton is OCS certified (Organic Content Standard) and grown in Turkey., while the linen is also grown in Europe. The fabric is woven, dyed, printed and finished by GOTs certified Altoteks, our Turkey-based manufacturer.
We chose this material blend because it’s more planet friendly, and minimises water pollution both at the production and laundering stage. At the end of its long life, our fabric is fully biodegradable and compostable, ultimately returning to the earth it was taken from.
Stretch is key for comfort, which is why we use a plastic-free elastic in our jumpsuits and trousers. Our elastic is made in Austria, the nearest producer we could find. It is made from organic GOTS cotton and natural rubber which has a longer lifespan and is eventually biodegradable, unlike conventional polyester elastic. We source our elastic from UK company James Tailoring.
Our buttons and zips
Our buttons are made from eco-friendly Coroza - a sustainably harvested material that supports communities in Ecuador. Sometimes known as ‘vegetable ivory’, it is a hard wearing but ultimately biodegradable material that is grown - not farmed - in the Ecuadorian rainforest. We source our buttons from UK-based Courtney & Co and you can learn more about our supplier here. Our zips are made from study, longwearing metal, so you can easily get in and out of our jumpsuits.
Our care labels
Last but not least, our care labels are made from organic cotton in Turkey, at the same factory our fabric is woven and printed at, using low impact azo-free dyes. Our care labels contain all the info you need to look after your Wild Clouds clothes. Our plastic-free clothing is designed to last a lifetime, and we’re here to support your repair needs along the way - more on that here.
Plastic fibres are found in more than half of our clothes, so it’s not getting any easier to avoid in our outfits. We take our plastic-free commitment seriously all year round, not just in July. Say no to plastic extraction, waste and pollution, and shop Wild Clouds today.