Plastic is everywhere, but chances are, you already knew that. You also already probably knew that it can take centuries for plastic to decompose in a landfill, and that there is so much garbage accumulating in the ocean (a large percentage of this waste is plastic), that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas, and growing!
But things may be getting even worse…
However, before we go there and explain just how bad things have gotten and how quickly they got there…..I’d like to at least shine a small light at the end of the tunnel to make you realize how quickly individual, community, and global action could turn things around just as quickly.
There’s a huge and growing secondary market for plastic and tons of ways to recycle, reuse and in some cases, avoid it altogether. We’ve listed action steps that you and your family can do at home, as well as some helpful links to other resources and brands that are already making a huge impact.
Both overseas and here at home – Our Oceans are drowning in plastic!
Our cumulative global plastic production has grown rapidly from 2 million tons in 1950 to over 7.8 billion tons today. That more than one ton of plastic PER PERSON!
That’s already a terrifying statistic, and it’s projected to increase over the next decade as developing countries adopt more Western style consumption habits.
It is estimated that China, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Thailand alone account for over 60% of all global ocean plastic pollution. These countries are experiencing rapid economic growth and have weak waste management and sanitation infrastructure, especially when it comes to managing plastics.
Within the next decade, Asian countries are estimated to increase plastic consumption by a whooping 80%!!! as trends continue in these countries.
With these trends continuing, experts predict there could be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and pound for pound, more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050!
We can all agree that’s a very bad thing, and similar to trends with CO2 emissions, there’s no easy answer or magic bullet.
The reality is that a lot can be done, and has been done, by governments and private corporations working together.
The Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center For Business and Environment estimate that though global governmental, businesses and NGO initiatives and implementing better waste management systems in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Thailand could reduce global ocean plastic leakage by over 45% in the next ten years!
Similarly, by combining increased waste collection rates, improved collection infrastructure, and through plugging collection gaps, we can achieve a 25-50% reduction of ocean plastic leakage within the next five years!
Although some of the largest increases of plastic consumption and pollution are coming from the developed world overseas, we can have BIG plastic concerns here at home.
In the United States, only 9% of all plastic gets recycled!
You read that correctly. 9%!!!
Despite the fact that you may be using paper/reusable bags at the grocery store, a paper straw, and a reusable K-cup, there is still A LOT we can do right at home.
Plastic Bottle Recycling and sustainable active wear
You might be thinking that recycling plastic bottles isn’t a new creative solution, and isn’t very new or clever.
You might already recycle all of your plastic bottles, or better yet, you don’t even consume any.
You might be thinking about what you are drinking or eating – have you thought about what you’ve been wearing?
Wearing? That’s right. Most of your clothing has plastic in it or on it.
About 5 years ago, synthetic fibers officially overtook cotton fibers globally, and polyester is the dominant synthetic fiber. Polyester is found in about 60% of all garments in retail today, and that number is expected to increase as polyester remains cheaper to traditional materials like cotton or wool as it requires no farmland to produce.
Experts now predict that over 98% of all future fiber production will be synthetic, and 95% of all synthetic fibers produced will be the cheapest and most readily available option, polyester.
The interesting thing here is how woefully ignorant of this issue so many of us remain.
While so many health and environmentally conscious consumers make daily efforts not only recycle plastic bottles when we must use them, but to avoid them altogether, so many of us completely overlook our own wardrobe!
In addition to recycling and avoiding plastic in our lives when we eat and drink, its time to think of recycled polyester garments when we shop!
As mentioned previously, polyester is the most produced and consumed of all fibers in the world, and the good news is that it’s only slightly more to produce recycled polyester fibers made of plastic bottles!
Due to a composition on average, of over 90% synthetic fibers and most with 70%+ polyester, it makes sense to look at active wear for brands that making amazingly stylish, comfortable, and form fitting recycled garments!
So let’s talk about how they are made, the total reductions in CO2 footprint per item, as well as total reductions in plastic consumption, water consumption, and other nasty chemicals reduced and avoided altogether.
Recycled polyester fabric is made from recycled PET plastic water bottles. It takes on average, 10 bottles per garment, so it’s a great way to get those bottles out of our oceans and landfills!
Clear plastic water bottles are most effective because they can be turned into material that can be easily dyed. The first step is getting bottles dried, sterilized, and then shredded and broken into small chips.
Then, the chips are heated and pass through a spinneret to form yarn, which forms from strings into long coils, or spools. Similar to other traditional fibers, these spools of recycled polyester fiber are then passed through a crimping machine which gives it a fluffy texture which creates a yarn-like material.
Finally, the yarn is then baled, dyed, and knitted to create recycled polyester fabric!
The final product in terms of quantifiable emission reductions and energy?
And here’s the best part, recycled polyester can be recycled…..FOREVER!
Activewear is one of the HOTTEST industries in fashion right now that can capitalize on this is:
Globally, the active wear market is over $300 billion, and has been growing rapidly in the last 5-10 years as one of the hottest segments in fashion.
As mentioned previously, most active wear today is made with polyester as the number one fabric.
Some brands have almost 90% polyester!
If even a small percentage of this $300 billion industry moved to recycled polyester, in a few years we could achieve:
- Billions of less water bottles in our landfills
- Cleaner oceans with less plastic and a healthier marine ecosystem
- Millions of tons of CO2 emission reductions
- Less dependence on foreign or domestic fossil fuel companies
- Further reductions in cost of recycled polyester fabrics as new suppliers, competitors, and economies of scale drive down costs
It’s time for a change in your closest, at the gym, and in the mirror.