September 05, 2017
Plastic Clothing - Managing your Footprint
Back in January, TAMGA blogged about plastic clothing, sharing some of the shocking impacts of fashion on the environment. Coles notes: if you’re trying to limit the amount of plastic in your life, a good place to start is the polyester, nylon or acrylic fabrics in your closet!
In the last post we learned that tiny fibres from plastic fabrics (ie: fabrics that are derived from petrochemicals) detach in the washing machine and float through water treatment plants right into the ocean. Once there, they are being consumed by fish and other animals, and later, by us. It literally goes full circle. 
Shocked? Frustrated? Feel like the world is going to end? Not all hope is lost!
Thankfully, there are many great eco souls in the world that have taken this problem to heart and are creating some wonderful alternatives. Here are some tips we've gathered along the way to help you live a more plastic-free lifestyle.

Washing Your Clothes

If you don’t feel like throwing out all of your synthetic clothes just yet (good plan!), there are steps you can take to treat the symptoms of plastic pollution. This can include washing less or making sure you only wash full loads. Patagonia has commissioned some great research on micro-fibres, and came up with a pretty straightforward solution: the Guppy Bag. This is a super simple concept - wash your laundry inside the mesh bag and up to 99% of the fibres will remain in the bag. It's no perfect solution - the fibres are bound to end up in a landfill eventually - but it keeps them out of our waterways for now.

Choosing Fabrics

Another option is to choose clothes made from materials that aren’t plastic. Natural wool, hemp, organic cotton and TENCEL are all good choices. Even though these textiles can also shed in the washing machine, their fibres pose no harm to the environment. Look for ecologically sourced fabrics that use less water and either handle chemicals responsibly, or use none at all. These fabrics will never reach the same low cost as some plastic fibres, but they will last much longer if they’re made well.

What are Bioplastics?

The term bioplastic pops up every now and then on certain products like cosmetics and packaging - but what does it mean exactly? Sure, the name sounds great, but it’s not always what it promises to be. To make things easier, these plastics can be loosely divided into two categories: bio-based plastics, meaning they are derived largely from biomass (plant-based materials), and bio-degradable plastics, which are said to degrade completely in nature. So far, so good.
However, when you go deeper into the issue, things are not so simple.  Bio-based plastics for example have to undergo an extensive process before they can be used in certain products. They are oftentimes treated with chemicals or heated up to a very high point, changing the natural characteristics of the mass. This means that they are not able to bio-degrade or even to be composted without posing harm to the environment, as they release these toxins into the atmosphere. On the other hand, bio-degradable plastics need either extreme heat or extreme moisture to fall apart, conditions that aren’t available in most countries’ existing recycling structures.

The Future

Fortunately, there's alot of progress happening in this space. There’s a bio-plastic being created at the moment called PHB, or Polyhydroxybuterate, that is produced by tiny organisms that actually EAT old plastics and turn it into a new, completely bio-degradable and bio-based product (read more about this exciting process here). While the development of these bio plastics is well under way, its presence in the fashion industry is very limited so far. Up to this point, it can not produce the same characteristics that would be needed for a garment, like elasticity and strength. 
Another plastic alternative that the TAMGA team is really excited about at the moment is being made by a Bali-based start-up called Avani. This company is making entirely plant-based and 100% bio-degradable bags from cassava starch. These bags are so non-toxic that you can actually drink them (check out this video for proof!) If you order a TAMGA item after November 1st it will be packaged in this amazing material. 
To sum up: If you (like most of us) own synthetics, try to wash them less and use a laundry bag to catch the micro-fibres. Whenever possible, opt for organic cotton, wool, linen or TENCEL clothing instead of plastic fibres. There are a lot of great businesses in fashion that are working towards a more plastic-free and environmentally friendly future, join the TAMGA newsletter and we'll keep you in the loop on all things eco-fashion!

 

Click here to learn more about the eco-friendly fabrics used by TAMGA Designs.

 

Sunny Klassen

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