Polyester is one of the biggest polluters in fashion — here’s what one CEO wants to do about it

Kind has a polyester self-discipline.

It be the most widely-mature clothing fiber in the sector, however as an man made self-discipline fabric fabricated from plastic, polyester desires replace energy to hold and is extremely water and air polluting, per the Council of Kind Designers of The united states.

The vogue enterprise is making an strive to take care of the topic, however there is no straight forward resolution, per the CEO of 1 of the sector’s ideally generous garments manufacturers. “There is now not in actuality to this level (a) raw self-discipline fabric that is as cheap and as versatile as polyester on the present time,” said Roger Lee, who runs Hong-Kong headquartered TAL Attire.

As correctly as being inexpensive, polyester would not crease and would possibly presumably presumably even be washed at low temperatures. However, the laundry process furthermore releases runt fibers is known as microplastics, which can be unhealthy to marine lifestyles. Whereas polyester lasts for years, longevity is a double-edged sword — garments can be broken-down over and over however will doubtless up in landfill, and develop now not biodegrade.

“This day, we now not regularly ever use virgin polyester,” Lee knowledgeable CNBC’s “Managing Asia: Sustainable Future.” “What develop I mean by that? Pretty in general, our polyacetal (fiber) that we use are in actuality from recycled bottles.”

Over the final two years, Lee said there became as soon as a astronomical acceleration in the usage of recycled plastics in vogue. “The motive is for the reason that price of the usage of that has approach down to the the same designate because the usage of virgin polyester. And that is the predominant — if the payment is the the same … (it is) a no brainer. It saves environments (and has) the the same industrial charges.”

TAL Attire manufactures clothing for manufacturers alongside with Burberry, J Crew and Patagonia and became as soon as basically based by the Lee family who started in the trend enterprise with a cotton cloth shop in 1856. The company became as soon as revived by Lee’s salubrious uncle C.C. in 1947.

CEOs want to claim okay, what’s more considerable … a profit now or … a planet in some unspecified time in the future?

For the time being, most practical about 14% of polyester is made from recycled fibers, per requirements physique Textile Substitute. How shut to a breakthrough is the sector in terms of recycling mature garments?

“At the same time as you occur to focus on pure polyester, yes, we’re shut. However the topic is replace affords are blended affords, it is a ways a polyester mix with something else. And atmosphere apart that has been a converse,” Lee explained.

TAL is fervent with the Hong Kong Study Institute of Textiles and Attire which is investigating fresh programs to develop the trend enterprise more sustainable. In November, the institute launched a “Inexperienced Machine,” developed with the H&M Foundation, which can separate blended affords. The fresh machine works by decomposing the cotton half of the topic fabric and extracting the polyester, which can then be spun into garments.

Struggling with garments going to landfill, or encouraging folks to exercise much less, would possibly presumably presumably slither some formula to addressing an extra of polyester garments — and that formula having a survey on the fundamentals of the trend enterprise.

Customized clothing

Brands currently “guess” how many objects of every and each vogue they’re going to hold, Lee said, and making the clothes takes three to 6 months earlier than they’re sent to retail outlets or attach online. What would not salvage equipped at plump designate is marked down. “When it is a ways so cheap, or 70% off, (folks deem) I develop now not truly want it, however you understand what 70% is payment it, (so) I will salvage that. And then you positively safe stuff you develop now not truly want,” Lee said.

One resolution is to develop garments that are made-to-measure, which TAL has been doing for 15 years. “In the last few years, it is in actuality taken off … you toddle into the store, the garment is now not there prepared for you. But you say you understand what, I love this fabric, I love in this vogue, you quandary the notify and the shirt as an illustration, in seven days, you are going to salvage it at your doorstep,” Lee explained. Sooner than the coronavirus pandemic, TAL made round 600,000 costume shirts a yr in this arrangement.

Whereas making made-to-measure garments is currently more costly than producing them in bulk, that will presumably presumably replace in the very lengthy time length. “You develop now not want (a) warehouse to store (garments) … you develop now not want astronomical retail outlets to promote … But astronomical manufacturers that comprise replace brick-and-mortar can now not salvage rid of those overnight, so it would not develop sense,” Lee said.

“What’s taking pictures the market are the up-and-coming folks … we desire more folks to imagine that formula,” he added. In December, Amazon launched custom T-shirt provider Made For You in the U.S., while San Francisco-basically basically basically based Unspun sells custom-fit denim.

“Brands must be dedicated to claim: I will salvage rid of this raw self-discipline fabric polyester, as an illustration, from my present chain in five to 10 years’ time, forcing folks to search out replace programs, that are more sustainable. It is the manufacturers’ CEOs’ responsibility to develop that,” Lee said.

He furthermore called for the enterprise to work together. “Our enterprise is extremely aggressive (and) sharing secrets about how we develop issues will give one company advantage over one other,” Lee said. “But CEOs want to claim: OK, what’s more considerable … a profit now or … a planet in some unspecified time in the future. And I deem planet in some unspecified time in the future.”

— CNBC’s Karen Gilchrist contributed to this yarn.