Are Clothes Made From Recycled Plastic Sustainable?



Over five trillion pieces of plastic litter our oceans, and every single minute one truckload of plastic ends up in the ocean. Images of plastic bottles littering beaches and landfill has raised the profile of the excess amount of plastic we use worldwide.


Each industry has tried to reduce their single use plastic usage, for example, McDonalds have opted for paper straws over plastic ones. However, it's fashion that's possibly the biggest plastic polluting industry, with up to 60% of our clothing made from synthetic fibres, and many fast fashion brands are still using excess single use plastic in their packaging.


To tackle the issue of excess plastic and in a bid to become more sustainable, some fashion brands have taken a step to reduce the amount of plastic rotting away in landfill and polluting the sea by making their clothes out of recycled plastic.


PET plastic is often used for single use clear plastic bottles, and is the most widely recycled plastic. By using PET plastic that already exists, then less plastic is being produced overall. Even though less plastic will end up in landfill, recycled plastic still has the same issues as virgin plastic.


Are clothes made from recycled plastic really sustainable?


The downside of using recycled plastic


The ugly side of plastic use is still present. Clothing made from recycled plastic still contributes to plastic pollution in the ocean and micro plastics still shed into the water streams when recycled plastic clothing is washed.


Recycling and disposing of recycled plastic clothing once you have finished with a garment still has many issues and the current technology we have today can only recycle plastic a couple of times. The process makes plastic fibres shorter meaning strong fabrics can't be formed anymore to create proper garments.


Until we find better technologies and fabrics that can substitute synthetic fibres, why not use the recycled version? Surely doing something is better than doing nothing at all?


Which brands are using recycled plastic in their clothing?


adidas

adidas have produced millions of shoes using recycled plastic and have pledged to be plastic free by 2024. Some of their latest footwear is made from the plastic recovered from the ocean with 11 bottles being recycled to make their Parley line of shoes.


Tala

YouTuber and entrepreneur Grace Beverley created sportswear brand Tala and pledged to only use recycled cotton and recycled PET plastic in the garments. Tala's labels, bags and garment packaging is 100% recyclable, too.


H&M


This one may shock you as H&M is a fast fashion brand and mass producer, but they have actually started using recycled plastic bottles in their garments. Their December launch of kids clothing saw them using recycled plastic bottles in their garments.


Many people accuse H&M of 'greenwashing' due to their connotations to fast fashion and contributing to many environmental problems but by using recycled plastic, they are doing something to reduce the pressure on the planet.


Patagonia


Patagonia is a designer of outdoor clothing and sports gear which has even produced clothing made from recycled plastic bottles since 1993. The spring 2021 season saw 84% of their polyester fabrics were made with recycled polyester, and they are committed to reducing their impact on the environment.


Tips for buying recycled plastic clothing


First of all, research where a brand has sourced their plastic from. By delving deeper on a brand you can ensure they are not greenwashing. Rather than removing existing plastic from the environment, several companies have purchased new bottles to transform into clothing, but this just adds to the problem.

Clothes made from recycled plastic still shed tiny microfibres which end up in the sea. Instead, look for garments using recycled plastic that won't need to be washed in the washing machine at all, or at least very regularly. Shoes, outerwear, and handbags are some perfect examples of this.