Is ocean plastics “the new black”, asks Circular Online’s digital editor, Darrel Moore?
Plastic recovered from the natural environment has become an unlikely material being used by a number of major fashion brands.
Fashion companies have been upping their sustainability credentials to show the world – and their customers – that not only do they care about their products’ impact on the environment and the resources they use, but they’re doing something about it, too.
All announced in over the course one week, fashion brands Prada, The North Face and Converse have all revealed an ensemble of products that use recycled plastics recovered from the natural environment.
So, is plastic now a fashion accessory, or is sustainability today’s real must-have?
As part of a project called “Re-Nylon”, a new line of Prada bags will be made from a regenerated nylon material known as ECONYL.
Prada has partnered with textile producer Aquafil, which manufactures ECONYL from plastic waste from oceans and fishing nets, as well as textile fibre waste.
The material can be recycled over and over again without losing quality, according to the company.
Prada plans to make all of its nylon products from ECONYL by the end of 2021.
Nylon has long been favoured for its strength and durability and is one of the most common plastics in the world. But it has a high environmental impact and is increasingly becoming a target in the fight against pollution.
Nylon is synthetic man-made fibre derived from petrochemicals – a thermoplastic – which is used widely throughout the fashion industry. It uses three times more energy intensive than cotton to produce (source).
“This project highlights our continued efforts towards promoting a responsible business,” said Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group head of marketing and communication.
“This collection will allow us to make our contribution and create products without using new resources.”
Aquafil chairman Giulio Bonazzi said: “With this project, Prada marks the step, taking on a leading role in environmental sustainability among Italian brands.”
Converse: re-thinking waste
American brand, Converse, announced its Chuck Taylor All Star, often seen donning the foot of trendy students to offbeat hipsters, is about to undergo a “new era of Converse design”.
Converse has often used the shoe as a starting point for a number of fabric and construction experiments.
Converse Renew is now taking on the challenge of product creation using post-consumer and post-industrial waste.
Converse Renew is now taking on the challenge of product creation using post-consumer and post-industrial waste
It attempts to blend a new approach to materials with “inventive new methods of manufacturing”, with a singular aim of developing new and more sustainable ways of making Converse.
Three Renew Processes — upcycled textiles, recycled PET and recycled cotton canvas blends — will give tonnes of waste a second life, the company says.
Converse Renew’s Three Processes
- Renew Canvas: the same feel and look as traditional Converse canvas, except now made from 100 percent recycled polyester that came from used plastic bottles.
- Renew Denim: using an in-house upcycling process, denim jeans that were diverted from landfills serve as the first example of Converse’s capacity to turn single-source upcycled textiles into a Chuck Taylor All Star or Chuck 70.
- Renew Cotton: this proprietary process transforms cotton canvas waste from the manufacturing process to create a composite 40 percent recycled cotton with polyester to form a new yarn. (In future seasons, additional recycled blends will be explored.)
A collaboration between National Geographic and trendy activewear brand, The North Face, has produced a line of new t-shirts made using plastic bottles diverted from the waste stream of US National Parks.
The North Face said: “We’re proud to partner with National Geographic to introduce this limited-edition Bottle Source collection crafted from single-use plastic sourced from the waste streams of our country’s most famous public spaces, including Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Teton National Parks.”
The Bottle Source collection is diverting 160,000 lbs of plastic bottles from the waste streams of Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Teton National Parks, and recycling them into t-shirts and tote bags.
“National parks are seeing record visitation; more than 330 million visitors in 2017 – and we want to help them visit responsibly,” the brand says.
For every Bottle Source product partnership makes make one dollar is being donated to the National Park Foundation to support recycling and reuse programmes.
“Recycling looks good on you,” the company says.
We couldn’t agree more, TNF.
The fashion industry is being increasingly thrust into the spotlight of late regarding its ethical and sustainability practices.
According to a 2015 report from the British Fashion Council, the UK fashion industry contributed £28.1 billion to national GDP, compared with £21 billion in 2009. The globalised market for fashion manufacturing has facilitated a “fast fashion” phenomenon – “cheap clothing, with quick turnover that encourages repurchasing”, according to a recent enquiry by the Environment Audit Committee (EAC).
In 2017 a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on ‘redesigning fashion’s future’ found that if the global fashion industry continues on its current growth path, it could use more than a quarter of the world’s annual carbon budget by 2050.
Synthetic fibres used in some clothing can also result in ocean pollution. Research found that plastic microfibres in clothing are released when they are washed, and enter rivers, the ocean and the food chain.
For the fashion industry to thrive in the future we must replace the take-make-dispose model, which is worn out
Sustainability issues also arise when clothing is no longer wanted. A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that the growth of clothes production is linked to a decline in the number of times a garment is worn. Clothes disposed of in household recycling and sent to landfill instead of charity shops have an environmental impact, such as contributing to methane emissions.
“For the fashion industry to thrive in the future we must replace the take-make-dispose model, which is worn out,” said Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation at last year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit. “We need a circular economy for fashion in which clothes are kept at their highest value and designed from the outset to never end up as waste.
“By joining forces to Make Fashion Circular we can harness the creativity and innovation that is at the heart of this USD 1.3tr industry to create a system that delivers benefits for everyone.”