In 2020 we saw the Amazon, Australia and California all on fire. We had hurricanes, rainstorms and snowstorms sweep across the country. And more recently, the debacle in Texas has shed further light on the climate crisis the world is facing. In addition to the grim state of the environment, all these disasters have generated a lot of donations from people around the nation to help the families and individuals that are affected. With minimal distraction thanks to coronavirus cases still on the rise, I think Americans really are interested in a more sustainable world. This of course, is a positive thing. But one of the many items that are still hindering sustainability is the use of plastic.
Fashion companies, green ones and others, utilize single-use plastics for a large percentage of packaging. In fact, Europe saw 87 million tons (170 kg per person, annually) of packaging waste in 2016. And with so many online orders in the last twelve months, this number has only skyrocketed. A package typically will arrive in a bag or box, then have individual plastic bags of clothes and accessories, called polybags. Polybags are made of thin plastic and are the bags you often see in online orders. Made from polyethylene, it is in fact recyclable but because it is so low in value, it usually doesn’t get recycled and is instead left in waterways without decomposing. And if you’ve ordered jewelry or a small leather good, those are sometimes wrapped in individual packaging as well.
The problem with plastic is it takes decades to decompose, releases harmful chemicals into the Earth and air and endangers humans and animals daily. To combat all these negative side affects, governments have issued mandates and laws to ban single-use plastics in grocery stores — but what about fashion? What are the alternatives?
Many fashion experts think TENCEL fibers, biodegradable and recyclable materials are the key to a more sustainable world. Unfortunately, unlike the food industry that is regulated by the FDA, the apparel and grooming industry has no regulations and rules so there is no one to monitor plastic use. As a consumer, we can do our part by researching what materials are used in garments before purchasing. We must all work together in this fight for a more sustainable world. So don’t just think about these things because it’s Earth Day, think about it all year round.
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