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Toxic Materials...the Best and Worst Ingredients in Fashion

Toxic Materials...the Best and Worst Ingredients in Fashion

Phoebe McCarthy

The ever-increasing demand for fast fashion means globally, more clothes are being produced than the planet can handle. Here in the UK, the consumption of fast fashion led to approximately 235 million items of discarded clothing going to landfill last year. The UK is the highest consumer of clothing per person in Europe using approx 26.7kg per person, the second highest consuming country is Germany using about 16.9kg per person.

What is Fast Fashion? 

Fast fashion is the manufacturing of quick, cheap clothing inspired by continuously changing trends, from catwalk shows and celebrity influencers.  To meet consumer demand, big name fashion brands are churning out clothes to hit shop floors and online retail outlets in record time.  To achieve quick turnaround, materials such as polyester, acrylic, acetate, nylon and rayon have been developed. These materials are composed of a toxic cocktail of ingredients including detergents, bleach, petrochemical dyes, chemical fabric softeners, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde.  These materials are known to be damaging to our health and wellbeing and also have a devastating impact on the environment. Polyester for example is the most common material used in fast fashion, found in everything from underwear and shirts to coats. Polyester is a plastic based material made from non-renewable petroleum. When polyester breaks down, it is reduced to micro-plastics that are not biodegradable and end up in our oceans, land, and water causing widespread pollution and environmental degradation.

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Fast fashion uses large amounts of water during the production process, releasing high levels of CO2, whilst toxic chemicals and dyes used during the manufacturing process enter the world’s water systems causing pollution. Additionally, due to the low cost and low quality nature of these materials, the clothing produced does not last long and quickly ends up in landfill sites and incinerators.

Where possible, avoid these materials when you shop and look out for clothing made from sustainable low impact materials. We have broken down our best materials to look out for when you are shopping;

1.     Organic Cotton - grown without the use of pesticides or fertilisers and using less water during the production process than conventional cotton. Organic cotton is breathable, chemical free and best of all, biodegradable and recyclable!

2.     Hemp - a material made from the fibres in the herbaceous plant cannabis sativa. Hemp is a very high yield crop that produces more fibres per acre than cotton and flax. Hemp is strong, long lasting and absorbent as well as being biodegradable.

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3.     Linen - a natural material made from the sustainable flax plant, chemical free and biodegradable. Linen is breathable, durable easily absorbs perspiration, at the same time leaving a cool and dry feeling on the skin.

4.     Tencel or Lyocell  - a natural, man-made fibre made from the wood pulp of sustainable tree farms.  Produced using nanotechnology in an award-winning closed-loop process that decomposes all solvents and emissions. Tencel is soft, comfortable and breathable.

There continues to be incredible innovations in sustainable textiles and smart materials that are designed to improve aesthetics or are performance enhancing. There are materials  that help regulate body temperature, reduce wind resistance and control muscle vibrations to optimise sporting performance. Materials made from leftover coffee grounds that protect the skin from sun damage and have anti-aging properties. It is an exciting and revolutionary time for the fashion industry and we look forward to seeing some ground-breaking sustainable developments.

Our Ethical Fashion Brands are Available on Our Online Vegan Marketplace, launching this Autumn 2019.

 Shop vegan and ethically with CARMA. Sign up for the latest updates ahead of launch here.