In recent years, the sustainable fashion movement has gained significant momentum, driving fashion brands and consumers to seek eco-friendly alternatives to traditional materials. Among these alternatives, upcycled polyester has emerged as a popular choice due to its potential to reduce waste and decrease the fashion industry's environmental impact. However, like any material, upcycled polyester has its own set of benefits and drawbacks that must be considered.
Benefits of Upcycled Polyester
Waste Reduction: Upcycling polyester diverts discarded plastic materials from landfills and oceans, giving them a new lease on life as clothing or other fashion products. This process helps reduce environmental pollution and conserves valuable resources. (Greenpeace)
Lower Carbon Footprint: Compared to producing virgin polyester, the production of upcycled polyester requires less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gases. This contributes to lowering the fashion industry's overall carbon footprint. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
Water Conservation: The recycling process of polyester generally consumes less water than producing virgin polyester, addressing the fashion industry's significant water consumption issues. (World Resources Institute)
Creativity and Uniqueness: Upcycled polyester offers designers the opportunity to create unique and innovative fashion pieces, providing a fresh and diverse range of sustainable options for consumers. (Fashion Revolution)
Harms of Upcycled Polyester
Microfiber Shedding: Like virgin polyester, upcycled polyester garments can shed microfibers during washing, contributing to microplastic pollution in water bodies and potentially harming marine life. (The Guardian)
Quality and Durability: Upcycled polyester might not be as durable as virgin polyester due to the challenges in processing and reusing the material. Garments made from upcycled polyester may have a shorter lifespan, leading to faster disposal and defeating the purpose of sustainability. (Common Objective)
Chemical Use: Although upcycling polyester can reduce the demand for new petroleum-based materials, the recycling process often involves chemical treatments that may still pose environmental and health risks. (United Nations Environment Program)
Limited Supply: The availability of upcycled polyester is currently limited, making it challenging for larger fashion brands to shift entirely to this material. Scaling up the production of upcycled polyester may require more investment and research. (Ecotextile News)
Some critics point out potential drawbacks of upcycled synthetics. For instance, the recycling process might involve chemical treatments that could still pose environmental and health risks. Additionally, the quality and durability of upcycled synthetic fabrics may vary, leading to concerns about the longevity of the resulting garments. Moreover, the limited availability and scalability of upcycled materials might pose challenges for larger fashion brands aiming to shift to more sustainable practices.
We do not believe in a black and white approach and understand that the idea of sustainability is ever-evolving and improving. Do upcycled synthetics have a place in the eco-fashion space? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
- Greenpeace: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/21447/greenpeace-urges-fashion-industry-to-reject-toxic-reality-of-synthetic-fabrics/
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/
- World Resources Institute: https://www.wri.org/
- Fashion Revolution: https://www.fashionrevolution.org/
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/19/fleece-jacket-microfibres-plastic-pollution-wildlife
- Common Objective: https://www.commonobjective.co/article/the-difference-between-recycled-and-upcycled-materials
- United Nations Environment Programme: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/dont-let-fashion-go-waste-un-highlights-environmental-costs