Shockingly, quite a lot. 72% of clothes made nowadays have plastic in them. The manufacture, washing and disposal of these clothes is causing serious problems for the planet.
As a nation the UK throws away a lot of clothes. We each buy about 26.7kg of clothing a year and in total 300,000 tons of it ends up in landfill. This is way more than our European counterparts.
Washing synthetic clothes is a problem. New research finds that a whopping 35% of the microplastics found in the oceans comes from clothes washing. According to the report, each time an item of clothing is washed, up to 700,000 microscopic fibres make their way into our oceans, where they are swallowed by sea life and become incorporated into the food chain, potentially ending up on our plates.
Synthetic fibres also have a higher carbon footprint. A polyester shirt's footprint is 5.5kg compared to 2.1kg for a cotton shirt - on average* And then, there's the emissions from manufacture.....
Co2 emissions from textile production are huge. Every year global emissions amount to 1.2 billion tonnes - that's more than international flights and shipping combined. These emissions are rising fast and significantly - if it continues at it's current rate then by 2050 the textile industry's carbon footprint will be 3978 mega tonnes which is double India's 2018 carbon emissions. And it will use up 26% of the total carbon budget. (That's the amount of carbon we can produce a year to keep the climate under that 2 degrees of warming.) Thankfully sustainable textile manufacture is coming into its own thanks in part to people like WRAP.
1. Buy second hand - a new study suggests that the UK’s second hand item market is set to surge in the coming years, echoing industry reports that the market could overtake the fast fashion market by 2029. *Fashion united
2. Buy better quality and buy less!
At Elephant Box we are all about creating reusable products that are built to last and the same principles apply for the clothes we wear.
To quote Vivienne Westwood "buy less, choose well, make it last".
And according to a report by the Fashion Retail Academy that came out last year it seems like more and more people are thinking in this way. The report revealed that consumers are now 13 percent more likely to choose more expensive, longer-lasting clothes over cheaper items with a shorter lifespan, with 34 percent opting for better quality items.
There are plenty of other measures we can take to mitigate the environmental impact of our clothes too.
3. Go for natural fibres like bamboo, linen or organic cotton* (recycled is better than new as cotton uses a huge amount of water).
4. Wash your clothes less! Controversial but according to Stella Mcartney
"If you don't absolutely have to clean anything, don't clean it."
Read more about why we should wash our clothes less in this BBC article.
And finally, to stop all those tiny particles of plastic ending up in the ocean...
5. Get a microplastic filter for your washing machine. Read about Guppyfriend washing bags here.
Put simply - buy carefully, buy second hand, buy natural fibres, wear clothes for longer, wash them less and mend them. Very easy solutions. We can do it. :)