Plastic pollution remains one of the most pressing environmental problems throughout the world. About eight million tons of various plastic products find their way to the ocean every year. And despite the growing concern from both private and public sectors, plastic production continues to grow.
The fashion industry, long known to be a significant contributor to the growing plastic problem, is trying to turn things around. Many brands are adopting a more sustainable method in their product supply chains. Ethical fashion is no longer just a niche sector but is becoming the norm in the industry.
One manifestation of their sustainability efforts is the emergence of recycled plastic activewear. It is growing in popularity, especially among millennials who are passionate about a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
How Is It Made?
The production process of recycled plastic clothing involves many stages. It starts by collecting plastic bottles and taking them to recycling centers where they are shredded, and the liquid is removed.
From there, they are sorted into clear plastic, stickers, and bottle lids. This process is done in a bath where the lids float to the surface and are separated. Chemicals are then added to help remove the stickers.
The remaining pile of soggy, clear plastic shreds is allowed to dry. This action is done in a slow cooker where it spends ten hours rotating. Once dried, the mixture is transported through a rotating screw then melted at 270 degrees Celsius. After this, it is dropped in large strings and collected into a container. The mixture is then reheated and stretched, making the fibers stronger and more flexible.
While the resulting material is already sturdy, its journey to becoming recycled plastic activewear is not yet finished. The fibers are shredded yet again, giving rise to a fluffy raw substance. This fluff is sent to another facility where it is made into a rough cloth by machines. Next, the cloth is spun into fibers and collected by massive spindles. This fiber is the material used to create recycled plastic activewear.
Tips for Recycled Plastic Clothing Supporters
Recycling plastic and turning it into clothing items seem like a brilliant solution to a growing problem, but it is still far from perfect. The system is not fool-proof, and there are loopholes that some dishonest brands can exploit. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that the recycling process achieves the desired effects. Here are a few ways that consumers can help.
- Be Mindful of Greenwashing
Some companies buy new plastic bottles instead of recycling old ones. This practice, known in the industry as greenwashing, aims to pass off products to consumers as eco-friendly when in fact, it did nothing to help the environment. Avoid buying from companies like these by checking how they source their plastic materials. You can also see if they observe other sustainable practices such as the use of natural dyes and the implementation of fair wages.
- Be Wary of Microplastics
While microplastics can be avoided by choosing the right brands, there are other ways to minimize the release of these particles. These are simple things like using a filter bag, washing on cold, filling up the machine to reduce friction, using liquid detergents, washing less frequently, the list goes on.
It may be hard to imagine that your choice of activewear brand can help save the planet, but every gesture counts, no matter how small. The key is for everyone to do their part.