Did you know that synthetic fibres derived from petroleum now dominate the clothing market at a time when research finds these plastic clothes each shed 1900 microplastic particles into the ecosystem with every wash?
The trend towards cheaper synthetic materials accelerated during the past two decades with biodegradable natural fibres making up half of global fibre apparel consumption in 1992 then declining to about one-third by 2013.
A troubling consequence of the rise of synthetics is 2011 shoreline research at 18 sites across the planet led by ecologist Dr Mark Browne which found the majority of accumulated plastic pollution was microplastic fibres that matched the materials found in synthetic clothing.
Clothing consumption figures collated from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Fibre Report (see graph below) show in 1992 natural fibre consumption of 22 million tonnes from a global apparel fibre total of 39 million tonnes – compared with 2013 and 32 million tonnes of natural fibres from the global total consumption of 92 million tonnes. These figures reflect in increasingly bulging wardrobes, with average individual consumption rising from 7kg/person in 1992 compared with 13kg/person in 2013.
Americans each throw away 30kg of textiles a year, the United Kingdom and Hong Kong about 13kg per person according to their environmental protection agencies – and Australian charities process about 5kg of donated clothing per person each year.
An Upcycling exhibition to help us get a handle on how fast-fashion consumes resources and creates waste is coming to Coolah this week with agricultural scientist and communications consultant Jane Milburn.
Jane is one-third through the 365-day Sew it Again project to inspire creative upcycling of existing clothing, demonstrate slow fashion and revive home-sewing as a life skill akin to home-cooking.
“I’m demonstrating refashioning on sewitagain.com, empowering others with upcycling skills and ideas through workshops, and shifting society’s thinking about ecological impacts of clothing choices,” Jane says. Continue Reading →
Most of us are materialistic by nature. We like stuff that is useful, pretty, holds memories, provides comfort, brings status, or appeals in some other way.
It is the ability to imagine how new things might change our lives that drives us to acquire them. New Scientist magazine’s March 29 feature The Meaning of Stuff described this as transformation expectation, imagining how it may enhance and somehow make things better.
But being more mindful about consumption – of food, energy, clothing, technology, sweet stuff – leads to better outcomes for ourselves and the planet. For example, use of apparel fibre has increased by 80 percent in the past two decades, three times the rate of population growth, according to the table below from a 2013 FAO World Apparel Fibre Consumption Survey. The report is written from a consumption perspective on recession impacts but can be interpreted as an overall warning because per capita consumption between 1992 and 2010 ballooned from 7kgs up to 11kgs of fibre per person per year. This is unsustainable. Continue Reading →