The Least Sustainable Fabrics you could wear
Most polyesters are non-biodegradable so it can take between 20 and 200 years to break down if it’s put into the landfill. Polyester is partially derived from oil, a major source of pollution.
High amounts of water are used for cooling in the energy-intensive process used to produce polyester. This is dangerous in areas of water shortage, leading to reduced access to clean drinking water.
2. Cotton (conventional)
Cotton is one of the most common fabrics used to make clothing. Studies show that it can take upwards of 20,000 litres of water to produce just one cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans. The excess water is then polluted with chemicals and dyes. These materials are expensive to dispose of properly, so many companies end up polluting the riverways instead so their products can remain cheap.
3. Rayon (Viscose)
The fast-fashion industry often uses rayon to produce cheap clothing using large amounts of water, energy and highly intensive chemical processes. These processes release dangerous chemicals into the surroundings, which can lead to health problems in both workers and local communities.
Acrylic production involves highly toxic chemicals that can be dangerous to the health of factory workers. Acrylonitrile is a key ingredient and it can enter the wearer’s body simply through skin contact or inhalation. Moreover, acrylic is not easily recycled and can lay in a landfill for up to 200 years before biodegrading.
Nylon is biodegradable - it can sit in the landfill for 20 to 200 years. It is partially derived from petroleum, one of the dirtiest industries and forms of energy. The production of nylon creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, and it uses large amounts of water and energy.