Much ado about polyester?

Whilst sourcing materials for our garments, Samantha has gone to great lengths to find, compare and order organic fabrics, wooden buttons, and recycled sequins. Each time, she chooses the most environmental and human-friendly option.

When it came to embroidering our T-shirts, we came across an unexpected sustainability challenge: our supplier’s embroidery machines are set up to work with polyester yarn. Surely this was not a problem?

Well, we thought it was. We had made all this effort to source and pay for GOTS-certified cotton, and then we’d pollute them with polyester embroidery? We couldn’t let that happen.

With lots of patience and determination, Samantha and our supplier have run a number of tests using cotton yarn, making sure that the yarn and the embroidery machines wouldn’t break in the process.  Who said setting up a sustainable fashion production line was easy?

So, why do we have a problem with polyester to start with? After all, polyester has great properties, as it is cheap, wrinkle-free and dries quickly.

We've got a problem with it, because it’s THE MOST TOXIC and POLLUTING FABRIC that exists! Not only does it contain harmful chemicals that easily penetrate our epidermis, polyester simply doesn’t breathe and creates an environment in which smelly bacteria flourish. Of all fabrics, polyester is the worst for our body’s largest organ, our skin.

As if direct contact with our skin isn’t bad enough yet, polyester also ends up in our food, as it is not biodegradable. Microplastics pollute our land and our oceans. Did you know that every time you wash a synthetic garment, up to 2000 microfibres are flushed into the drainage?

Whilst more and more sustainable fashion alternatives become available, it surely isn’t easy to ban polyester from your wardrobe, especially for sports gear and raincoats. So what can you do to reduce their impact on the environment?

When buying, choose recycled polyester over virgin polyester. Recycled polyester uses less energy and reduces the consumption of petroleum as raw material. When washing, put your synthetic garments in a Guppyfriend bag, that will catch microparticles and avoid them going into our rivers and oceans. And by all means, avoid polyester going into landfill. Do your research and look up recycling programmes in your community.

Working on The Extra Smile is teaching us that we have more control about our fashion choices that we initially thought. It surely isn’t easy, but lots of determination and a collaborative spirit is going a long way.  (smiley)

If you want to read more:

How sustainable is recycled polyester?

A way to repeatedly recycle polyester has just been discovered

Toxins remain in your clothes