Welcome to the jungle

Welcome to the jungle

By Anne Katrine, founder of Sustainacompany/Sustainawear/Sustainalifestyle

Welcome to the jungle

Do you know that song?

I hear Axl Rose’s crisp voice in my ear now and suppress an urge to be headbanging and throw a rock n´ roll sign. But I am currently traveling by train and would feel it a bit inappropriate. 

So instead, I will be describing the material jungle, the sustainable material jungle, because OH MY, is that a jungle. 

It seems, that no matter what we choose, it will not really be good enough, because all materials have good and bad attributes to them. I will try to narrow it down to polyester and describe the good and bad sides of that fiber. 

But before I do that, you might want to know, who is that woman who wants to headbang to Guns n´ Roses on a train? 

My name is Anne and apart from being completely stuck in the ‘90s when it comes to music, I am quite up to date on sustainability in the fashion industry. I have worked with fashion and sustainability since 2006 and now offers online programs for companies to help them implement sustainable business models and materials. 

Ok now, let´s not get sidetracked…….

Do you know how polyester is produced? 

It derives from oil. 

Then chemicals are added and made into plastic chips. 

Those plastic chips are melted and spun into a thread – a polyester thread. 

The thread is weaved into a fabric,

then dyed in a color 

and eventually made into a dress, shirt, T-shirt or trousers or…..

Ok, that was simplified, but you get the big picture, right? 

It is plastic. 

That is also why 

we can take used plastic bottles (PET plastic bottles to be exact), 

melt them and spin them into a thread 

and weave it 

and color it 

and make a fashion product out of it. 

Yes, again simplified, but if you want to read a scientific article on the subject, you know how to find Google.

REPREVE® is a brand that has specialized in producing polyester fabric from PET bottles and through small chips weaved into the garment, has made the material traceable, so you can always scan the material and be certain, that it is in-fact made of recycled PET bottles. This is also useful once you want to recycle the shirt made from this material, because you will be able to trace the fiber content and will know how to recycle it, based on that. 

And polyester is actually one of the simple fiber groups to recycle. You cannot just melt your t-shirt and make a new one, it is not that simple. But compared to cotton or viscose fibers, then using 100% polyester fibers makes the recycling process so much easier. 

A lot of people are now wearing polyester every time they exercise because it is great at absorbing sweat. Once, polyester was terrible at that, but a lot of innovation has happened on this specific fiber, so it is now one of the most intelligent fibers that we have. 

Wow, that sounds great, so wearing plastic is actually great? 

Well, some of the good attributes are that:

  • It is made from reused plastic bottles – so they are not going to waste
  • It is recyclable, meaning that as long as it is 100% polyester, it can be recycled into polyester again
  • It is an intelligent material, that has a ton of possibilities – also in regard to sustainability

BUT – because there is always a butt in the end (pun intended)

It is still a synthetic fiber made from plastic. Trouble being, that it will release microplastic when washed. Microplastic that will enter our sewage and eventually end up in the local environment. 

So, if you have anything at home in polyester a good idea is to either wash it in a special bag, that will catch the microplastic. Or buy a completely up-to-date washing machine with an installed filter which prevents the microplastic from ending up in the sewage. 

So, there are good things and bad things in choosing polyester as a material. 

But hey, promise me;  that you will only buy recycled polyester……

So let the jungle remain 

But make sure, you have full knowledge of all of the trees, animals, and plants within, so we can take good care of it all. 

Knowledge and education IS the answer to most issues out there – as a first step at least, so thank you for reading this. 

Maybe you gained some knowledge?