Fashion’s toxic threads | The Economist

Fashion’s toxic threads | The Economist


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.

92 thoughts on “Fashion’s toxic threads | The Economist

  1. A very cheap and easy intermediate solution:
    Put all your fabrics in a special bag to retain most of the microplastic.
    For further information check
    https://www.stopmicrowaste.com/

    Disclaimer: I'm not in any way affiliated with that website or its products. I just care about the environment.

  2. We also don’t know the long term effects of wearing recycled plastic will cause to our skin and overall health. Recycling is just a temporary solution not the cure. Consumerism needs to shift to cure the problem.

  3. Wow, even the clothes we are wearing are damaging the environment each time they are being washed let alone thrown away completely. It seems to me that at this point that humans have got to investigate every simple aspect of the 21st century's life style. It seems ironic that the comfortable lifestyle that lead to the explosion of their demographics may one day threaten their very own existence.

  4. As usual a great work on showing solutions,or the people trying to make them, and avoiding the hysterical climate change reports that only worst public perception and perspectives of possible solutions. Yet I haven't seen through this series the data sources and precise data(what is sad) and knowing scale and detail of problems is essential for we as individuals and members of society to think about the solutions and their optimal deepness.

  5. Hemp is the answer….funny how the founding father of the economist LOVES to bash but yet at same time invests HEAVILY in the oil industry….

  6. Great, so you are going to reduce the microplastics in the ocean, but you're still going to mass produce your products in factory that emmits toxins. Are you really solving any ecological problems here?

  7. Other sustainable and cheaper options are buying second hand clothes and borrowing (most of my clothes are from thrift stores, family and friends). And to avoid microplastics going from your washing machine to the ocean there are different products you can use!

  8. therefore we should do what; cancer and all other sicknesses bring in trillions of dollars; a chain reaction for a wonderful economy for civlised people. more plastic please;capitalism=wealth over health

  9. I hate the thought of eating fish with plastic threads found in its stomach. I’m sure some toxins are absorbed into the flesh of the fish that we consumed. What happens when fish swallow wool or cotton threads?

  10. Everything sounds good except for one problem. How can we make these environmental measures affordable? It seems that these measures are expensive and will not pose a benefit to consumers in the near future.

  11. I hope the government of every country will ban harmful fashion so that we will be forced to buy from ethical and sustainable companies.

  12. Consumer culture needs to change. Fashion has evolved into a false sense of happiness based on a commodity which has temporary value. There are some people who do not want to be seen wearing an outfit more than 2 times which is ridiculous. Celebrities, models and influencers have become the new idolatry and materialism the latest religion. However hard we look for meaning we will come up empty. If we value the superficial it is just that, superficial – not deep and meaningful but vacant of real value.

  13. More toxic than the fashion industry is animal agriculture, which is responsible for 45 % of the climate change. Killing 70 billion sentient beings for pleasure each year is what is killing the planet. almost 50 % of the plastic in the oceans are fishing nets, why isn´t this mentioned? Watch cowspiracy, what the health and dominion.

  14. Another sad fact…the GOP has the Highest Concentration of CONVICTED PEDOPHILE and WIFE BEATING RAPISTS in the Nation.
    REF—-FBI, CDC, SPLC, INFOGRAPHICS of HATE, ATLANTIC, FORBES, WASHINGTON POST, WSJ and DoJ, The ECONOMIST, DoHS.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  15. The editing of this piece is horrible. It's all over the place and makes this seem like a commercial than a short expose. It takes away from this important message.

  16. This is precisely why consumers should be educated (from a young age) on how to seek and purchase high-quality clothing made from natural materials that lasts years, if not decades. The use of polyesters and other man-made fabrics should be frowned upon, while the use of natural materials, such as wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, leathers, and silk, should be championed and encouraged all throughout the fashion industry. People should buy clothes with the intention of wearing them for a long time. This means that "fast-fashion," and ultimately trends, should be avoided, focusing instead on classic style. And, in order for clothes to actually last that long, we need to go back to the traditional ways of manufacturing clothes; largely by hand and with higher-quality materials. Craftmanship, as opposed to simply a brand name, should be celebrated. Likewise, people should be educated on how to properly take care of their clothes, and not just leave it all to some incompetent dry-cleaner.
    Buying less clothes is not the solution to this problem, and neither is renting them. The only solution is buying high-quality clothing and wearing it for much longer.

  17. All these environmental videos are inspiring but always avoid the elephant in the room.
    We are burden to ecosystems , regardless of how consciously we behave.

  18. Nothing annoys me more than telling people about the impact of fast fashion just for them to say they don't care or that changing their habits won't make a difference. Guess what, if you changed your habits and then made it your goal to have someone else change theirs, we may be on the right track.

  19. The fashion industry is the largest organization of the world’s dumbest people. The human race still makes clothing almost the exact same as we did tens of thousands of years ago.

    We make the cloth first, then cut it and try to shape it to our bodies and stitch it together. That’s retarded.

    Why not just create the entire garment the first time with the material already shaped to the body? We could eliminate seams and create perfectly fitted garments without bunched or stretched material. We could also eliminate the vast amounts of wasted material that fill the dumps.

    Maybe you morons could start using a little somthin’ we call “science” (just a little) and create temperature regulating material so we can wear the same pants in Arizona in the summer, or in Alaska in the winter, and still be fine.

    But that’s FAR too much to ask of the fashion twats. They’re far too stupid.

  20. Videos like this one make me think of all the fashion influencers telling everyone to go vegan to save the planet while they’re promoting fast fashion……..

  21. So I better see them suffering in this week the 358 and treated like the trash they are more suffering please

  22. After learning about the harmful affects the fashion industry has on the planet, I’ve been researching on how to be a more informed consumer. I now just buy from thrift stores or use clothes no longer wanted by friends or family. But does anyone know of any ethical, environmentally-friendly fashion brands?

  23. There’s plastic everywhere: wipes and the likes, cigarette buts, etc., but people just don’t know. Unless people are educated about the impact of their actions on the environment and people’s livelihoods, they cannot make an informed choice to change their behaviour; that is why it is important to spread the word.

  24. As a libertarian i think it's disgusting that environmentalists have now started telling people how to live their life.. what you should eat, drive, wear, when you should fly and what next?? What you think. Just fascists with a different ideology!!

  25. The fact is, you are so-called hypocrite to lecture on fast food retailer for using plastic straw and grocery retailer for using plastic bag…and then you still go out, buy a whole bunch of fast fashion H&M, and stay delusional that you contributed for protecting global environment…give me a break.

  26. I havent bought a single piece of clothe this yr and Im so proud. I havent thrown away any of my clothes tho.. I just started wearin them all. When I need to buy somethin I will do my research and buy somethin eco friendly or secondhand. No more new clothes.

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