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Plastics, they are in fashion!

Lim Wei Wei Mar 19, 2024

Many of the plastic products that we use end up in the ocean. One major factor is none other than the clothes that we wear. Polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fibers, all of which are made of plastics, form 60% of the material used in manufacturing of clothes.

While these synthetic fibers are cheap, extremely versatile, providing stretch, breathability, warmth, and sturdiness, amongst many other attributes, they do contribute to ocean plastic pollution in a pervasive way. A single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of tiny plastic fibers from our clothes into the water supply and eventually into the ocean, polluting our food chain. Not to mention single use plastics that go into packaging materials, water in dyeing and finishing processes, energy consumption, waste from production etc. The carbon footprint simply adds up.

So how can we (consumers, regulators, companies) do our part to reduce our environmental footprint stemming from plastics used in the fashion industry?

Here's how:

Consumers:

  • Support fashion brands that prioritise sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices.
  • Choose clothing made from more environmentally sustainable materials.
  • Practice minimalism and pursuing quality through buying fewer, high-quality items that last longer rather than fast fashion that contribute to more waste.
  • Bring reusable bags when shopping for clothes.

Form a cross-functional team that includes representatives from various departments involved.

Regulators:

  • Regulate the use of plastics in the fashion industry.
  • Provide incentives to promote sustainability in the fashion industry.
  • Educate and raise awareness about the environmental impact of plastics in fashion and encourage sustainable shopping habits.

Metrics and reporting

  • Establish clear and measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPI) related to sustainability goals.
  • Regularly report progress on these metrics in an easily accessible and understandable format, promoting a commitment to transparency.

Scenario analysis can also be used to understand potential impacts on the organisation.

Companies:

  • Promote usage of natural fibers such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, instead of petrochemical derived synthetic fibers.
  • Encourage usage of recycled polyester, plastic bottles or other recycled sources.
  • Implement recycling programs for clothing to create a circular economy.
  • Minimise usage of plastic packaging, opting for eco-friendly packaging alternatives instead.
  • Use biodegradable materials for components such as buttons, zippers, and packaging materials.
  • Implement environmentally-friendly, energy and water efficient manufacturing processes.

Towards this end, sustainability specialists from Baker Tilly Singapore can assist companies in coming up with initiatives to reduce their environmental footprint.

Plastics, they are in fashion!

View the full infographic here

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Photo of Lim Wei Wei
Lim Wei Wei
Partner & Practice Leader | CA (Singapore), MBA

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