Studies in Canada show that microfibers used in garments such as yoga pants have become a huge threat to aquatic life. Microfibers made up 95 percent of the plastic pollution in waterways as compared to microbeads which constituted only 5 percent.
Many of the developed nations have proposed regulations to ban the sale of microbeads in toiletries because of the risk they pose to aquatic and marine environments.
But now it appears that a different type of microplastic is becoming a growing threat to aquatic animals.
Findings of a recent research conducted by scientists from Carleton University, Ontario show that most of the microplastics recovered from the Ottawa River and its tributaries were from microfibers rather than microbeads.
Jesse Vermaire, assistant professor of environmental science, geography and environmental studies at Carleton University said:
What really surprised us is that we found plastic particles in every single water and sediment sample we took, so the plastic was really prevalent in the river system. As much as 95 per cent of the plastic in the water samples collected by Vermaire and the Ottawa Riverkeepers was made up of microfibers. Around five per cent of the plastic was made up of micobeads. A lot of them are coming from synthetic clothing.
Yoga pants, fleece-type jackets, athletic wear and other garments made from synthetic materials contain microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers”. Every time you run your washing machine, hundreds of thousands of microfibers are flushed down the drain into natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea and into the food chain.
Ingesting microplastics over a period of time makes animals feel full, meaning many later die of starvation.
Some companies have already started to suggest interim solutions, such as washing synthetics less or capturing the fibers with filters, But a larger, systemic solution, such as new fabric formulations can only be a permanent solution.
*This story first appeared on Digital Journal
From the Paris runway to Chennai’s pop up, we trace the journey of Coimbatore industrialist Kavitha Chandran’s brand of bags, Urmi
The colourful koodais (baskets) that your grandmum wove with tubes of plastic just became haute couture. All thanks to Kavitha Chandran and her brand of bags, Urmi. Chandran, who employs women from in and around Coimbatore to hand-weave totes and clutches from recycled plastic, using age-old basket-weaving techniques from the region, says it’s all about women empowerment, sustainability and reviving an almost-forgotten craft.
The stylish Chandran could easily pass for a model herself, but is intensely private and would rather not have her photo taken. “But you are welcome to ask me anything,” she says. Chandran speaks about Urmi’s collaboration with designer Manish Arora at the recently-concluded Paris Fashion Week 2017 (PFW). His models carried Urmi bags, and now, boutiques in New York, Tokyo, Ibiza and Paris are selling them. The bags will also be seen at the London Design Fair in September.
Chandran, who was always fascinated by baskets, says the idea for Urmi was born when she saw an employee’s wife and mother hand-weave baskets. The idea took shape when she got into a discussion with Amirthavalli who ran a small shop near her textile factory in Udumalpet. From her, she learnt about the various weaves. “I learnt about the Malli Muggu (jasmine or flower bud weave), Shiva’s Eye, Star and the regular weave. The Nellikai (gooseberry) and the biscuit weaves are in the pipeline,” she says. Amirthavalli became the first point of contact and she gathered together other women who still practised basketry.
Speaking of her first lot, Chandran says, “I showed the first batch of bags at ‘Who’s Next Paris 2015’ and people loved it.” She was flooded with enquiries from across the world, and that got her thinking. “It was not just about a fashion accessory,” she says, “but one that ties in with my commitment to sustainability and women empowerment.” Chandran, who recently received the Astitva Samman Award by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was the President of the FICCI Ladies Organisation in 2012. “We provide women the opportunity of working from home, as for many, stepping out to work is not an option. They are given the raw material and specifications. The bags can take anything between eight to 22 hours to weave,” says Chandran, who now employs 40 women in Udumalpet and Coimbatore.
The Urmi collection has evening clutches, box clutches, shoppers, tote bags and casual bags. The next big thing is going bigger with events like the Amazon Fashion Week and Lakme Fashion Week.
Urmi is available on 16 stores online, besides their outlets in Puducherry, Kochi, Delhi and Jaipur. Bags are in the ₹3,200 – ₹5,000 price range. The Chennai pop up is at The Amethyst Room, from April 5 to 15.
*This story first appeared in The Hindu
Looking for the latest in eco-friendly fashion? One word: plastics.
H&M announced on Tuesday that it will debut its second Conscious Exclusive campaign — an upscale version of its Conscious Collection program founded in 2012 — which includes formal wear for men, women and children. The line uses recycled polyester made from plastic waste, an estimated eight million tons of which litters oceans each year, and is slated to be available in 160 stores around the globe in late April. The move comes shortly after Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans, a nonprofit that reduces oceanic plastic waste, to make running shoes made almost entirely out of discarded plastic.
For the H&M line, the Swedish retailer teamed with Bionic Yarn, a New York-based company that turns plastic bottles into technical yarns and fabrics. The signature piece of H&M’s line is a blush pink pleated gown (which retails for $249) modeled by Natalia Vodianova, who was tapped to be the face of this year’s Conscious Exclusive campaign. Singer Pharrell Williams serves as as Bionic Yarn’s creative director, and has previously teamed up with brands like Timberland and G-Star on footwear and denim that use the bionic yarn technology.
“It’s an excellent PR stunt, for H&M to raise awareness about ocean pollution — along with Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Ocean,” said Lauren Slowik, outreach coordinator and design evangelist at 3-D printing company Shapeways. “But I like to hope that ocean trash is a finite resource and not something we can build whole industries on. The only real positive I see is that it helps to bring supply chain and production of materials to the forefront on consumers’ minds.”
H&M and Adidas said their ocean plastic efforts were designed to be more than just ploys to attract eco-conscious consumers. Adidas began selling its recycled shoes for $220 in November 2016 with a commitment to making a minimum of 1 million pairs by the end of 2017. It also plans to team with Parley on communication, education and research efforts.
Meanwhile, H&M is attempting to increase its percentage of garments made from sustainable materials, which was reported at 20 percent in 2015. It also asserts to be one of the biggest users of recycled polyester and organic cotton, and has a lofty goal for all cotton to be sustainably sourced by 2020.
However, despite its commitment to sustainability, H&M has still been vague in its transparency efforts and faces ongoing criticism for being a fast fashion retailer that is still using significant resources to produce low-priced goods. Natalie Grillon, founder of Project Just, told Glossy in a previous article that despite the assertions made against the company, H&M has still made strides in efforts like employee wages.
“H&M comes under fire a lot for their initiatives because they do publicize it,” said Grillon. “When really, they’ve made a ton of effort in support of better wages. But then they talk about it a lot, and then they come under fire a lot for anything at all that goes wrong.”
*This story first appeared on Glossy
New studies show that alarming numbers of tiny fibers from synthetic fabrics are making their way from your washing machine into aquatic animals
The first time professor Sherri Mason cut open a Great Lakes fish, she was alarmed at what she found. Synthetic fibers were everywhere. Under a microscope, they seemed to be “weaving themselves into the gastrointestinal tract”. Though she had been studying aquatic pollution around the Great Lakes for several years, Mason, who works for the State University of New York Fredonia, had never seen anything like it.
New studies indicate that the fibers in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers – tiny threads shed from fabric – have been found in abundance on shorelines where waste water is released.
Now researchers are trying to pinpoint where these plastic fibers are coming from.
In an alarming study released Monday, researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that, on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash. It also found that older jackets shed almost twice as many fibers as new jackets. The study was funded by outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia, a certified B Corp that also offers grants for environmental work.
“These microfibers then travel to your local wastewater treatment plant, where up to 40% of them enter rivers, lakes and oceans,” according to findings published on the researchers’ website.
Synthetic microfibers are particularly dangerous because they have the potential to poison the food chain. The fibers’ size also allows them to be readily consumed by fish and other wildlife. These plastic fibers have the potential to bioaccumulate, concentrating toxins in the bodies of larger animals, higher up the food chain.
Microbeads, recently banned in the US, are a better-known variety of microplastic, but recent studies have found microfibers to be even more pervasive.
In a groundbreaking 2011 paper, Mark Browne, now a senior research associate at the University of New South Wales, Australia, found that microfibers made up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world.
While Patagonia and other outdoor companies, like Polartec, use recycled plastic bottles as a way to conserve and reduce waste, this latest research indicates that the plastic might ultimately end up in the oceans anyway – and in a form that’s even more likely to cause problems.
Breaking a plastic bottle into millions of fibrous bits of plastic might prove to be worse than doing nothing at all.
Paper usage is down by 38%.
German sportswear maker Adidas successfully trimmed paper usage by 38% over a seven-year period at the company’s corporate offices by adding a simple request to virtual correspondence: “Please don’t print out this e-mail.”
The world’s second largest athletic-gear maker has also stopped stocking plastic water bottles for meetings, swapped plastic straws for paper ones, and at a recent global marketing meeting, reused banners to create bags that were needed for the event. All of those changes are part of a broader corporate-wide goal to reduce waste and lessen water usage.
“These types of changes can create arguments,” James Carnes, Adidas vice president of global brand strategy, tellsFortune. “Some said ‘I like the old plastic straw’ but it forces people to think.”
It also highlights why Adidas on Thursday unveiled a series of six priorities it hopes to achieve by 2020. Among those targets:
Apparel material suppliers will reduce water usage by 50%75% reduction in paper usage per employee from 2008’s levelCompletely switch to sustainable cotton usage by the end of 2018By 2020, a vast majority of suppliers will reduce energy usage by 20%
“Sustainability” is a word that is hard to define. Companies define their sustainable goals differently, and often times set long, multi-year targets to achieve their stated goals. Adidas says that’s why it was important to set metrics, which the company has made public on Thursday. Sustainability efforts are already permeating the company’s supply chain, including dry-dyeing clothes to save on water usage and a recentpartnership to use plastic material found in the oceans to create 3D-printed recycled polyester midsole for a new running shoe.
Another example to highlight would be Adidas’ plan to switch to “sustainable” cotton by the end of 2018. It is working with the non-profit Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to achieve this switch, meaning it will only order cotton from suppliers that use less water and fewer chemicals to meet the standards set by BCI.
“Suppliers who are providing us with better cotton have a lower impact on the environment,” Carnes said. “We are more aggressively now switching to BCI suppliers.” By the end of last year, 43% of the cotton Adidas ordered came from those more responsible growers.
Material innovation is likely the way that Adidas and main rival Nike NKE 1.10% are able to sell the sustainability story in a way that can truly resonate with customers. Most notably on that front, Adidas is planning to increase the use of recycled polyester for the company’s products.
Carnes asserts the human race adds 200 million tons of plastic on the planet each year. And while recycling can help lessen that material’s impact, 10% of the plastics made still end up in the Earth’s oceans. That’s why Adidas says it wants to re-use plastics for the raw materials used to make soccer jerseys and pretty much any other fabric-based product Adidas manufacturers.
“One of our long-term goals is to create an endless cycle of material usage,” Carnes said. “We aren’t an innovator that then thinks of sustainability later. We are actually looking at how do we innovate everything we do with sustainability as the foundation.”
*This story first appeared on Fortune