Since the world started to become more aware of the issues with the plastic cycle (particularly how they are discarded and take hundreds of years to decompose), there has been a drive to recycle as much as possible of the stuff.
Many techniques have developed since then - some questionable due to the amount of energy they use - but nonetheless valid as long as we are left with less plastic waste in landfills, and most importantly, our oceans.
One of the more recent trends which has really mushroomed this year is the production of yarn from plastic bottles. A brilliant idea indeed when you think that across the globe we use 1 million bottles per minute. So, if we were to replace at least 50% of the material used in the production of the more than 2 billion t-shirts sold per year, that can't be a bad idea, right?
We consume more than 1 billion plastic bottles per minute across the world :(
That's what companies like DGrade , 30A, Waymore and many others are doing, effectively creating a de-tour from landfills and transforming plastic bottles into t-shirts and other gear that will be used for a few more years. Moreover, it saves us from using land to produce more cotton, which in itself consumes a vast amount of water and energy too. I guess we can safely say that these companies are definitely doing their part!
The problem arises when we look at the end of this new cycle - where will these shirts end up? Even more worrying, a more insidious harm has been recently discovered in the process of washing these items of clothing.
The shocking news is that every time you wash your syntethic clothes, they shed hundreds of thousands of tiny particles of plastic (fiber) which can't be captured by filters. These fibers find their way to our sewers and eventually into streams, rivers and oceans. Finally, they will end up in the food chain as marine life can't make the difference between plankton and other organic particles they eat, and these plastic particles. Last year, researchers found fibres in every sample of mussels they tested in British seawaters or bought from UK supermarkets, including underwear fibres!
Waste from clothes made of organic material will not harm the environment :)
So, what can we do about it? There are a few ways to reduce the amount of fibres you shed when you do your washing: use lower temperatures and shorter cycles, do a bigger load and lower spin rates (so that there is less friction), use liquid detergent instead of powder (again, less friction). Although these will help, they will not solve the problem. A more conscious solution might be to buy organic clothing (wool, cotton, linen, silk or cashmere).
In other words, it's great that we are coming up with ideas to recycle plastic, but we always need to remember that it has to end up somewhere. Inevitably, this somewhere seems to be our oceans, marine life, and worst of all - making their way back into our own food and our bodies...