According to a European Plastics and Rubber Machinery survey study, Korea ranks first in the world with 132.7kg of plastic consumption per person per year. Plastic is causing severe problems not only in our country but also all over the world. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the weight of fish living in the sea and marine plastic will be equal. The plastics that do not decay will be broken into small pieces by waves and wind, which will become microplastics, eventually accumulating in the bodies of marine life, which will end up on our table. Plastic pollution in the ocean is a severe problem that is directly related to the survival of humankind and the marine ecosystem. Significantly as the coronavirus outbreak pandemic has prolonged, the concerns over plastic consumption are serious. As non-face-to-face consumption spread, emissions of plastics from packaging materials, fillings, ice packs used to deliver packages and food have increased rapidly.
It's hard to imagine the Earth where plastic is completely gone right now. However, efforts to reduce disposable plastics are worthwhile. And it must be done. Fortunately, the movement to try various solutions is increasing with discarded plastic bottles. One of them is the recycled fiber that recycled plastic waste. Plastic bottles and scraps floating in the sea can be collected, cleaned, crushed, and refined to make nylon and polyester, the raw materials of synthetic fiber. It is from the core founding that plastic and polyester materials are equivalent.
Patagonia is a representative brand that started to make clothes by reprocessing plastic bottles. In 1993, it collected the industry's first discarded pet bottles and reprocessed them into the polyester fabric to complete fleece products. Patagonia was the first outdoor clothing company to make clothes from recycled material. Fleece clothing made from plastic bottles was the first step toward creating sustainable production methods that would use fewer resources, reduce waste, and improve people's lives. Patagonia now makes more recycled polyester and uses it for various clothing, such as capelin base layers, shell jackets, board shorts, and fleece. They collect plastic bottles, unusable fabrics, old clothes and recycle them into new polyester. Their use of recycled polyester reduces the dependence on oil, the source of the polyester. Because the amount of waste is reduced, the waste site can be used longer, and the pollutants from incinerators are reduced. It makes it easier to recycle worn or old polyester clothing, reduce air pollution, use less water, and reduce soil pollution.
The trend of plastic fashion involves many other brands, too. Northface's flagship product last season, Think Green Fleece Jacket, using 100% recycled fabric recycled 50 500ml PET bottles per jacket (L size). Nau, which started in Portland, also proposed a "sustainable fashion" fleece recycled PET bottles. Ralph Lauren introduced the "Earth Polo," a collection of threads extracted from recycled plastic bottles. Twelve plastic bottles were used for each shirt, and the water-free process was carried out to reduce environmental pollution. It also ran a hashtag campaign called #TheEarthPolo on social media.
This does not mean that we can get rid of all plastic in the ocean. However, we can at least reduce the production of another plastic and new polyester. The point is not to live as an environmental activist who cares about the environment and loves it with aspirations. Just paying attention to a brand that strives for a sustainable environment is enough. And by being conscious in our daily lives and reducing plastic products little by little, we can save the Earth.
Pardes, Arielle. “The Future of Fashion in One Word: Plastics.” Wired, Conde Nast, www.wired.com/story/plastics-in-fashion-everlane-renew/.
Patagonia: We’re in business to save our home planet. “What We're Doing About Our Plastic Problem.” Patagonia, 10 Feb. 2020, www.patagonia.com/stories/what-were-doing-about-our-plastic-problem/story-72799.html.
- By Soomin Kim (Academic Affairs Department)