The fashion industry has rapidly increased, producing over 100 billion pieces of garments annually, and so has the waste from it.
It's estimated that every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck filled with textiles is burned or thrown into a landfill. I considered not launching Snella when learning about the reality of the fashion industry and how fast fashion and consumerism is one major contributor to our climate crises. Then I realised that roughly one-third of the industry hasn't taken any sustainability actions. What if I could produce kid's clothes leaving the smallest carbon footprints and a big bright future for our children?
Importance of pure and renewable materials
I thought that blended materials weren't an issue as many organic and GOTS certified kid's clothes are made from multiple materials, such as cotton and elastane blends. The positive thing with elastane is that it enables fabrics to stretch and recover their shape, making the clothes very comfortable and stylish to wear. It's also comfortable with an elastic waistband in trousers. Elastane is a man-made fibre spun from a polyurethane solution derived from non-renewable fossil fuels. The production is chemical-heavy, and the end-product does not biodegrade and will not disappear unless burnt, thus producing emissions. The problem when in use is that all clothes naturally shred fibres during wearing and washing, and the non-biodegradable elastane fibres will end up in our water and nature, polluting it with microplastics. This is a significant problem for our wild- and marine life, ocean health, and, inevitably, our own health and wellbeing. The Guppyfriend washing bag can be an excellent solution to capture this micro waste. However, the downside is that the waste still needs to be disposed of somewhere and can still reach nature och will be burnt.
It's estimated that around 1% of the material used in the clothes produced is recycled. A mechanical process for natural materials is often used where fibres are shredded, blended, and combed. Once this is done, it can be spun into yarn and then knitted or woven into cloth again. The recycled fibres are shorter than new ones and therefore not high quality. To increase the quality, new material is added. Recycling synthetic fabrics, like polyester and elastane, includes shredding and then granulating the material into plastic pellets. There are a few more steps in the process before the pellets are melted, extruded, and then spun into fibres for weaving or knitting.
It's challenging to recycle pure fabrics and almost impossible to recycle blended ones because of the different mechanical methods required and the intertwined composite fibers.
If you think about it, have you ever noticed the recyclable products and products made from recycled materials ratio? Far more plastic products, wrappings, containers, etc., are recyclable compared to being made from recycled material. Today, most plastic may be recycled and separated from other waste but then burnt to create energy and heat. Because plastic burns good, better than most garbage. Compared to paper and cans that recycle well and become new usable products, plastic containers differ in composition and doesn't recycle well into quality products again. Next time you buy something made from recycled plastic, note where the plastic comes from - plastic bottles, not stretchy jeans, chocolate wrapping, or grape containers.
There are better options
The issues when buying and using clothes with new polyester and elastane are that they contain non-renewable materials made from fossil fuels. Therefore, they will not biodegrade, will release microplastics as long as they are being used, and release emissions when burnt. In addition, blended materials cannot sufficiently be recycled.
Cotton farming and refinement are also resource-heavy but more natural, and there could be a future with production free from fossil fuels. The most positive thing is that pure cotton can be recycled mechanically without chemicals and be used again. Moreover, when pure cotton products no longer can be used, they can technically decompose.
There is, of course, a need for polyester clothing, such as functional wear for sports and outdoors, bags, and shoes. But think about the number of times you wash these products and use them compared to a t-shirt or a pair of leggings. We should start to open up our minds and think about who made my clothes and also what is in my clothes. Is it necessary to add and blend polyester and elastane threads for no particular reason?
If we use plant-based and pure materials, make and buy less, and use for longer, maybe we could in the future compost our clothes when we are done with them and give back to the earth what we once took? In my mind, that's circular fashion.