Making clothes out of recycled plastic: The new sustainable trend
Let’s talk about plastic (yes, again). The same plastic that’s piling up in landfill because it takes upwards of 500 years to degrade (if it degrades at all) and that’s destroying our oceans.
In 1950, the world produced 2 million tonnes of plastic yearly. By 2015, annual production had increased nearly 200-fold, to 381 million tonnes. This exponential increase isn’t set to slow down any time soon. During this time we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of polyester (aka plastic) in the manufacture of clothing, and, more specifically, in fast fashion, since the fabric is cheap to produce. Find out more about the impact that fast fashion is having on our planet here.
Currently, almost half of the world’s clothing is made of polyester, which is an energy-hungry, non-sustainable synthetic fibre. Our vision at Culthread is one of sustainability, and we made a promise early on to be as sustainable as possible, investing in recycled materials which we use instead of virgin polyester and animal products such as traditional down.
Making high quality vegan jackets is no easy task, it took us a long time to find materials to replace down and fur without any compromise on warmth, touch, weight and quality. We discovered Thermore Ecodown, made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. Every jacket made with Ecodown allows recycling of upto 10 plastic bottles which otherwise would have ended up in landfill. We’ve tried and tested how Ecodown feels (even out on the slopes!), so we can tell you first hand that it does a great job in terms of being light, warm and super soft.
As well our Ecodown insulation, we use 100% recycled polyester for the lining and outer shell of our brand new Hampstead jackets (launching in September 2019). There are many benefits to using recycled rather than virgin polyester materials, including:
- Less plastics going to landfill or ending up in our oceans, as our suppliers use plastic bottles that would otherwise be thrown away to make the fabric that we use for our coats
- It takes less resources to make the fabric, which is similar to virgin polyester in terms of quality. It’s production requires 59% less energy than that of new polyester according to a 2017 study by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. Plus, it’s manufacturing process doesn’t include the extraction of crude oil and natural gas from our planet
One of the downsides of recycled polyester clothing is that it sheds more microfibres when washed than virgin polyester. These end up passing through our sewers and into the ocean where they’re eaten by plankton and eventually move their way up the food chain and onto our dinner plates. To find out more about this, head over to our blog post about fast fashion. Culthread Hampstead jackets need little to no cleaning - if they get dirty just wipe them down with a damp cloth (they can also be dry cleaned - just look for an Eco-friendly dry cleaner near you that doesn't use perchloroethylene or ‘perc’).
The process by which recycled polyester is made is as follows:
- Collecting once used clear plastic such as water bottles, sterilizing, drying and breaking it up into small chips.
- Heating the chips and passing them through a spinneret to form strings of yarn which is then wound up in spools.
- The fibre is then passed through a crimping machine which creates a fluffy, wooly texture.
- Finally, the yarn is baled, dried and knitted into polyester fabric.
We’re doing our best to make the world see that we don’t need to be making clothing out of plastics and animal products. We have the technology and resources do things differently, and we need to do so now more than ever. It’s still much more expensive to make recycled polyester than it is to make it new, so we’re a long way from seeing fast fashion brands adopt the more environmentally friendly alternative.
Our mission is to share this information far and wide so that as many people as possible adopt a smarter view on fashion and shopping. We’ve written about our top tips on how to live more sustainably, if you’d like to read on, head over to our blog.