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  • From the high street to haute couture,

  • fashion is a 1.3 trillion dollar industry,

  • but it comes with a hefty environmental price tag.

  • Cotton production is being blamed

  • for depleting water sources and contaminating

  • the environment with pesticides.

  • Chemical waste from clothes manufacturing

  • has devastated rivers in Asia,

  • and some estimates suggest the fashion industry

  • is on course to create 1/4 of projected

  • global carbon emissions by 2050.

  • If you take design, a lot of it is

  • take, make, dispose.

  • There's another looming threat

  • for the fashion industry,

  • and it's going to put clothing materials

  • under the microscope like never before.

  • This man is known as the godfather of microplastic research.

  • In fact, Professor Richard Thompson invented the term.

  • Microplastics are basically just small fragments

  • of plastic that are accumulating in the environment.

  • His latest research has uncovered something

  • that has sent shock waves around the fashion industry.

  • The data we've collected show

  • significant increase in the quantities of microplastic

  • in the environment,

  • and a lot of what we found in that study was plastic fibers.

  • Synthetic materials like polyester,

  • nylon, and acrylic are made of plastic fibers.

  • These degrade and break up in a washing machine cycle.

  • If we take a domestic washing load,

  • that could release up to 700,000 fibers in a single wash.

  • Now that's gonna go to waste water treatment.

  • Some of those fibers will be intercepted

  • in waste water treatment,

  • but a good number will potentially

  • escape to the environment.

  • The data suggests that they are accumulating year on year.

  • Between 2000 and 2016,

  • the use of polyester by the global garment industry

  • increased from 8.3 to 21.3 million tons annually.

  • 1/3 of the fish that I collect from a sample

  • in the English Channel near to here,

  • have got synthetic pieces in their guts.

  • 10, 20, 30 years time, the quantities in those organisms

  • is only going be greater.

  • The long term effects of these plastics

  • in the food chain, and even in humans, are still unknown.

  • But Professor Thompson's discovery is ringing alarm bells.

  • When I talk to designers, they tell me that

  • shedding of fibers, and indeed, end of life recyclability

  • was never part of the design brief.

  • Environmental considerations like these

  • are making some fashion brands go back to the drawing board.

  • Tom Kay has spent his life around the ocean.

  • In 2003, he launched a brand that creates

  • functional and sustainable products

  • for those that share a love of the sea.

  • His company is experimenting with different design processes

  • in order to lessen it's environmental impact.

  • If you take design, a lot of it at the minute,

  • is take, make, dispose.

  • That is totally unsustainable.

  • We really have to address the root of the problem,

  • and that's redesigning out harmful fibers, harmful fabrics,

  • harmful processes.

  • The company uses only organic cotton.

  • It's developed a recycled polyester insulation for jackets,

  • and has created its very own wetsuit recycling program.

  • Polymer, polyester, you can take it back

  • and recycle it time, time and time again.

  • Finisterre's design team has also returned

  • to one of the oldest materials known to man.

  • This is really nice.

  • [Deep Female Voice] I actually really love it in the navy.

  • We've been big fans of wool since we started.

  • It's a great fiber.

  • It's a natural fiber.

  • It's biodegradable and it's fully traceable.

  • Finisterre is one of 2,700

  • B Corp approved Companies.

  • Members, spanning many industries,

  • are assessed on their environmental performance

  • and have a legally binding commitment

  • to put sustainability before profit.

  • It isn't a done deal,

  • we want fifty years to deliver this.

  • It's the thing we work at every day

  • to kinda improve on and get better at.

  • One designer is turning fashions

  • plastic problem on it's head.

  • Javier Goyeneche runs ECOALF.

  • He's taking plastics out of the ocean

  • and turning them into shoes.

  • The sneakers is the result

  • of more than two years of R&D.

  • They're active, urban, comfortable.

  • All the upper is made from 100% plastic bottles

  • from the bottom of the ocean.

  • The outsole is made from algae.

  • And his shoes rarely

  • go through a washing cycle.

  • He's limiting the plastic microfibers

  • that end up in the ocean.

  • ECOALF is creating high end fashion

  • from household and industrial waste

  • sourced from fisherman in the Mediterranean and Thailand.

  • We started working with three fishermen

  • off the east coast of Spain and now we have nearly

  • 3,000 fishermen taking waste out of the ocean every day.

  • We've taken already 250 tons, which we then convert into

  • polymer yarn, fabric, and products.

  • But Javier's also pioneering

  • a new synthetic material made from recycled plastic

  • that doesn't shed fibers in the same way

  • as current materials.

  • We started a project one year ago,

  • which is with the yarn we're getting from the ocean,

  • we want to start investing in,

  • how can we create a yarn that doesn't throw

  • microfilament to the system again?

  • Javier is one of a growing number

  • of boutique brands using recycled plastics.

  • The way we do things are much more complicated,

  • not only much more expensive,

  • and at the end of the day,

  • it's much easier to go a fabric show, buy a fabric,

  • produce a garment, and sell it.

  • The sooner bigger fashion labels

  • and brands follow suit,

  • the cheaper this environmentally friendly

  • clothing will become.

  • There are few laws regulating the use of synthetic materials

  • in the fashion industry.

  • Of course I'm concerned about the natural environment.

  • I'm a marine biologist that works in marine habitats.

  • Microplastics are consistent and we know

  • that they're accumulating

  • and we know that we're finding marine life

  • encountering them on a regular basis.

  • More research is needed into the potential harm

  • caused by microplastics.

  • But their very presence in the natural environment

  • poses serious concerns and challenges

  • for the fashion industry.

  • Can businesses accused of putting style over substance

  • get to grip with the materials their using

  • and impact they may be having on the planet.

From the high street to haute couture,

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B1 US fashion fashion industry polyester industry ocean synthetic

Fashion's toxic threads | The Economist

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/22
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