‘Sort of’ plastic-free July

This year I’ve been sort-of attempting Plastic Free July. This is a movement which encourages people not to buy anything made out of plastic all month, or to minimise the amount of plastic they buy. I say ‘sort of’ because attempting this makes you realise how deeply plastic is embedded in our lives: from brushing your teeth in the morning — probably with a plastic brush — to your evening meal whose ingredients almost inevitably come packaged in plastic, it’s practically inescapable.

Greenpeace’s recent advert draws attention to the sheer volume of plastic waste we create, and then often dump on other countries. The organisation also published a short report that’s well worth a read.

What does this have to do with fashion, you may wonder? Lots, because many clothes are made from plastic-based fabrics such as polyester — Figure 1 below shows the exponential growth in the use of the fabric since the late 1990’s.

Figure 1 — Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H. et al. (2020) The environmental price of fast fashion. Nat Rev Earth Environ 1, 189–200 https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0039-9

In fact, it’s precisely this growth in polyester that underpins the fast fashion model: cheap synthetic materials enable manufactures to produce high volumes of clothes are low cost. Low prices encourage shoppers to buy often and to discard their clothes quickly. (I’ve just realised I am typing this wearing a polyester top I bought on holiday in the US — ironic! But I’ve had it for 4 years, so at least I haven’t thrown it out quickly …)

Use of polyester is behind the high carbon footprint of fashion, marine pollution from microplastics released when we wash our clothes, and landfill waste. Therefore, it’s so much better to buy clothes made from organic cotton, linen or ethical cellulose whenever possible.

Instead of starting with my wardrobe, I tackled my bathroom this July. I predict that in future decades when people watch films and TV shows made around now, they will gasp in horror and amazement at the amount of plastic in our bathrooms. I’ve recently started buying Lush Cosmetic’s ‘naked’ products. These come in bar-form (like soap) with absolutely no packaging at all. I’m a fan of the brand’s naked shampoo bars, body moisturisers and deodorants. They are not a cheap option — there’s no getting around that. My deodorant costs £6.50. But I’ve found that they do last … and smell good.

I picked up this bargain in a local shop — £1.09 reduced from £10.99!! £10.99 would have been a lot to pay for four travel-size toiletries — even I as fairly keen environmentalist, I’m not sure I’d have been willing to pay full price.

Another way that plastic has inserted itself into my life is in mailers. I bought a dress from Oxfam’s online shop which arrived in a big old plastic mailer! I have begun writing to companies saying I was disappointed that my item arrived in plastic, and please could they consider switching to compostable bags like these? No doubt they cost more, but we need to make these changes to avoid landfill sites and oceans being overwhelmed by plastic waste.

Have you tried to do plastic-free July? Is there any plastic you just can’t get rid of? Let me know in the comments.

#sustainablefashion #plasticfreejuly #sustainability #ethicalfashion

Blogging about sustainable (mainly preloved) fashion. Reformed shopaholic, Londoner, bookworm and hispanophile