Like a lot of things from the last century, the invention of polyester fashion was a 'good thing' at the time. It was affordable, it was useful, and it served multiple purposes for the mass market.
We also have some fabulous fashion moments to thank polyester for, like the glittering feel-good vibes of Grease, the shimmering image of Jane Fonda, Brittney's 90s wardrobe and Geri 'Ginger Spice' Halliwell's iconic British flag minidress. We have polyester to thank for those outfits, and those moments are still some of the most memorable in fashion history.
But, what started as 'good thing' at the time has become one of our biggest problems in the fashion industry. There's a myriad of research to support the anti-polyester campaigners who want to see virgin polyester banned from the fashion industry, but why is polyester fashion so bad for the environment?
Here's the scoop...
Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world's use of polyester. Oil is a non-renewable resource; once it's gone, it's gone.
A single polyester garment takes more than 200 years to break down in landfill, but it never decomposes. It just breaks down into smaller plastic particles, and those particles exist - forever. Some of them make their way into our oceans too, contributing to the ocean plastics crisis.
Every time you wash polyester, tiny plastic microfibers shed into the run-off water and make their way into our oceans. Eventually, they end up in the bodies of the fish we eat. Fashion is now responsible for 35% of the microplastic fibres found in the ocean.
The production of polyester is an extremely intensive process, and turning oil into textiles requires a lot of energy and a lot of toxic chemicals. The manufacturing process of polyester emits gasses like N2O, which is 300 times more damaging to our environment than CO2.
One polyester shirt has a 5.5kg carbon footprint, compared to just 2.1kg for a cotton shirt.
63% of all fashion sold is now made with polyester. If the average Australian sends 23kg of clothing to landfill every year and 63% of it is made with polyester, we are literally throwing away non-renewable resources by the kilo, and leaving a toxic chemical trail in the process.
Polyester is terrible for the environment, but it also poses several health risks too. Polyester is a chemically produced fibre, and when it's in close contact with your skin - the body's largest organ - you absorb the toxins it's made with. Polyester contains chemicals like perfluorochemicals (PFCs) and formaldehyde, both of which are proven to cause cancer, liver damage, kidney damage and reproductive issues.
In a nutshell, polyester sucks.
I could write a never-ending list of cons, but I'll stop there. The only 'pro' I can think of is that polyester is durable, but so is cotton, and so is hemp, and so is linen... So I'm not sure the durability argument even passes as a 'pro'. One thing is certain; polyester has no place in our wardrobe, on our skin, or floating around in our oceans.
Once you know, you can't unknow, and educating yourself on the impacts of polyester fashion will arm you with the knowledge and confidence to make better choices for the environment and your health.
The Fashion Advocate no longer sells virgin polyester because it's simply unsustainable, but there are plenty of alternatives to polyester fashion. When you buy less, choose well and shop local, you can have an incredible impact with every garment.
The Fashion Advocate x