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sYNTHETIC EPIDEMIC

We are bombarded with viral videos of scuba divers and snorkelers swimming through literal oceans of plastic, and waves of plastic so thick, we can’t see the water. Still, virgin plastic and polyester enters the global supply chain every second. The problem of virgin plastics and synthetics being used in place of recycled alternatives is an epidemic. Alta Andina likes to call it the Synthetic Epidemic. We are sick; it is an addiction the world cannot seem to kick. Solutions exist; recycled polyester or PET could be used to produce every single plastic bottle in the world. Brands choose not to utilize the material, as it is more expensive than new plastic due to the requirements of the recycling process. Furthermore, recycled polyester is ready for use in thread, in apparel and countless other applications.

The plastic we can see in the ocean represents only a fraction of the total plastic in the ocean. Estimates state that over 85% of all debris created by humans that has washed up on our shorelines is synthetic microfibers. When we wash polyester and synthetic blends of clothing (think fleece) we release microfibers into the water, which make their way into the ocean. A study released by the BBC in 2017 stated that an average load of laundry releases 140,000 fibers from polyester-cotton blend, almost 500,000 fibers from polyester, and over 700,000 fibers from acrylic. Visible plastic in the oceans is the tip of the iceberg; the plastic we can’t see is the dangerous mass beneath the surface that sunk the Titanic.

 

  • Using recycled ocean plastic in our clothing is a great way to reduce the amount of new plastic entering supply chains, and pull existing trash out of our environment. However, as we have learned, this is not a perfect solution. These microfibers will find their way back into the environment, unless we come up with a solution to keep microfibers from entering waterways from washing clothes.Here are a few simple ways we can all address the issue of reducing our plastic consumption, and addressing the problem of microfibers finding their way into the ocean from normal washing of our clothes:  
    • Support natural and recycled alternatives over products containing virgin plastics and synthetics
    • Be conscious of how much you wash your synthetic gear
    • Use Patagonia’s GuppyFriend Bag when washing synthetics

The Synthetic Epidemic goes further than plastics and polyester. Check out our reading on vegetable tanned leather versus chrome tanned leather.

When brands take the easy way out, it ends up costing the world quite a bit more than working towards sustainable alternatives. As Alta Andina grows, we are excited to be part of a growing number of companies working towards a solution to the synthetic epidemic. By integrating recycled polyester and other responsibly sourced, natural alternatives into our supply chain, our growing product offerings will represent the change we want to see in the world.


We leave you with a message of hope, from Sir David Attenborough.