Clothing made from recycled bottles creates more plastic waste
Clothing made from recycled bottles actually creates more plastic waste, a pollution charity has found, labeling the practice “greenwashing.”
Polyester and other materials created from plastic bottles cannot be recycled and end up in landfills at the end of their life, City to Sea activists said.
Conversely, plastic bottles are among the easiest items to recycle, and the material can be turned into new products multiple times.
“This process puts plastic on a one-way street to incineration by turning a recyclable product into a non-recyclable product,” said Steve Hynd, policy manager at City to Sea.
Big brands are increasingly turning to recycled plastic as an alternative material, with up to 85% polyester in some stores made from single-use plastic bottles.
He argues that clothing made from recycled plastic is a “one-way street to landfill, incineration or dumping in the wild.”
Polyester is difficult to recycle due to the challenge of isolating and disposing of the plastic elements in the material.
Removing plastic bottles from the recycling stream means more fossil fuels will be used for virgin plastic to create substitutes, City to Sea said.
“It is about appeasing the conscience of the consumer”
Mr Hynd said brands marketing clothes as sustainable because they are made from recycled plastic mislead shoppers into believing they are doing the right thing.
“It’s about relieving the conscience of the consumer,” he said. “When they walk into a street store and see recycled products, they imagine that a bottle that was washed on a beach is turned into something useful, even if it isn’t.
“It makes them feel great about themselves, but it’s a surface level impact and another distraction from the real problem and potential solutions.”
All polyester, whether recycled or not, also creates microplastics, which can be harmful to animal and human health and have been found across the world.
It is estimated that adults ingest around 100,000 particles of microplastic per year, and although they are believed to pass through the body, there are concerns that smaller ones could enter the bloodstream or carry toxins around the body.
George Harding-Rolls, campaign advisor at the Changing Markets Foundation, said: “Sustainability is not something big companies can slip into like the latest fads. It must be integrated into all levels of their operations.
“With their carefully marketed green credentials quickly fraying, brands are clinging to recycled bottles for clothing to distract consumers from their inherently unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels for fiber. “
He called on consumers to look to second-hand clothing and brands to take responsibility for the end-of-life reuse and recycling of their products.
Greenwashing is a growing concern as consumers seek more sustainable alternatives. Earlier this year, the Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into the green claims, fearing consumers might be misled.