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Microplastics Within the Fashion World

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Photograph Courtesy of Getty Images/Brent Durand

Plastic is taking the fashion world by storm— and not in a good way. Your top, or pair of jeans, or sweater, or cotton sock, is at least 60% composed of plastic and its derivatives. Doing a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of microplastics into water streams, where minuscule, non-biodegradable materials travel into oceans and harm marine and land-based ecosystems. Because of this, along with overproduction of material, scientists project that 160 million tons of plastic will float throughout our world’s oceans. This startling, almost-inconceivable number is comprised of objects like plastic bottles, garbage, and polyester particles undetectable to the human eye.

Figures like Pharrell Williams recognize this ecological crisis. The Grammy-award-winning musician and producer leads creative design at Bionic Yarn, a sustainable textile company that transforms ocean plastics into clothing fabric through a system of collecting, processing, melting, and spinning plastic and plastic derivatives. Within the span of two years, Bionic Yarn has transformed approximately seven million plastic water bottles into wearable clothing fabrics without compromising on high-quality material. The company’s success is evident in their expansion to apparel, shoes, bags, and even home furniture pieces, realms which have been explored thanks to Williams’ creative direction. The “Happy” singer’s contribution to Bionic Yarn reflects an important aspect of public figures’ position in society: in utilizing his platform, Williams brings attention to innovative solutions which aim to lessen our collective carbon footprint. In a climate where global leaders are sluggish in addressing environmental crises, figures like Pharrell lead an unincorporated movement towards

Creating sustainable fabric is not a catchall solution, however— even the founder of Bionic Yarn acknowledges this fact. True sustainability can only be achieved by limits on production: essentially, the world, and specifically the fashion industry, needs to stop producing so. much. stuff.

Yves Saint Laurent famously quoted “fashions fade, but style is eternal.” This well known adage continues to guide haute couture houses, along with everyday people, in developing their creative style. Nevertheless, YSL’s quote reveals a grimmer side to the fashion industry: the shortening time frame for trends, as well as the recent emergence of microtrends, present an ecological crisis, leaving style unestablished and non-biodegradable materials eternal.

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