The 21st Century will not only be known as the era of high technology, social networking, and instant gratification, but also as recycling heaven. What started in the 60’s as an effort to try and save Mother Earth from the harsh pollution spewing from cars, trucks, and planes, has now entered every aspect of our lives. Now that society has, for the most part, eliminated black smoke puffing from vehicles, concern has focused on re-using items already mined from the earth. The new evil is plastic. One way we are dealing with plastic is through recycling, and of all things, some plastic is being turned into clothing.
An item made of plastic can last in a landfill for hundreds of years. If the plastic makes it into the ocean, it is broken down by the sea, but turns into a hideous killing floating matt of goo. Plastic can make the earth uninhabitable for plant life, and kills life in the ocean. Finding creative ways to re-use already manufactured plastic helps prevent it from landing in the ocean or inside the earth. Eco-uniforms, or sustainable clothing, are the newest trend for handling the current plastic bottle craze.
Over Abundance of Plastic
Over the last few decades, people have become caught up in getting what they want instantly. One particular craze is having fresh, clean water available at anytime. Industry answered this want with easily portable water in plastic bottles. Add to this a health craze to go away from soda, and suddenly millions of water bottles are thrown into the trash. With over 30 million bottles being thrown away every year now, there is an ample supply for clothing manufacturers to actually utilize this material for clothing.
Turning Something Hard into Something Soft
Currently, only bottles with a recycle number 1 can be utilized for clothing manufacturing, a hint at what kind of bottles to look for when buying water. When these bottles arrive at specialized recycling centers they are chopped up into tiny chunks. Melting the chunks creates threads, which are then woven into a fabric. The fabric is then used to create new clothing. There is no limit here as the type of clothing created ranges from shirts to pants to fuzzy, familiar fleece. One clue is to look for one hundred percent polyester. Thus, what once was a bottle that held your favorite soft drink or glacier fed water can now be worn as a soft and silky shirt.
Finding Eco Uniforms
No clear industry stamp has been developed for labeling an item as an eco uniform in the way that plastic bottles have been stamped for their recyclable ability. However, with a little bit of curiosity and a bit of research, you can determine if you have an eco style uniform or clothing. To be an eco uniform, the manufacturer needs to utilize environmentally friendly techniques. This can be utilizing sustainable materials, like recycled plastic, organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, or even old clothing. The factory creating the fabric or sewing the clothing could use solar panels, wind power, or non-toxic, eco-friendly chemicals in the processing. With this number of choices, there are many levels of eco-ness and it’s up to you to choose how far you take it.
Take Up the Challenge
Becoming green is gaining so much momentum that even one of the biggest fast food chains, McDonalds, is taking up the challenge of making a smaller carbon footprint. Within the next year, UK McDonalds plans to implement a program where all their uniforms will be recycled, including used ones. They will take old uniforms, tear them down, and create new fabrics to manufacturer new uniforms. McDonalds will create a whole new meaning for hand me downs and take recycling to a new level. Challenge yourself, and look through your closet now. Find items that are 100% polyester and research that company’s manufacturing process. Research what companies are making it their goal to become a green factory. Find out if they use sustainable products and have walked away from using harsh chemicals to process their fabrics. Make a pledge to yourself and your children that you’ll take the extra step to purchase eco uniforms and clothing. Every little step we take in putting less in the landfills and pulling fewer materials from the ground will help keep the earth green.