Despite the bold promise to create a more sustainable future, global fashion brands continue to rely on plastics by using synthetic fibers in their collections. According to a report by Changing Markets, these fibers fuel plastic waste and climate crises due to the fossil fuels needed to make them.
59 percent of claims made by European and UK companies, including H&M, ASOS and M&S, are unfounded or misleading to consumers, a new report finds. Under the title Synthetics Anonymous: Fashion Brands Addiction to Fossil Fuels, analyzed nearly 50 major fashion brands; The report rated 46 of the world’s supposedly most transparent brands, from high street to luxury, including Zara, Primark, H&M and Burberry, on the amount of fossil fuel-based materials in their collections and the commitment to move away from them. In conclusion, there does not seem to be a clear commitment to end their reliance on fossil fuel based fibers.
Another part of the research – reviewing 12 brands and over 4,000 products – shows that brands routinely fool consumers with false green claims. The majority of brands made sustainability statements, with 39 percent of the products examined bearing some kind of green statement. 59 percent of the green claims violated UK competition and market regulation guidelines in some way.
The worst offenders were H&M with 96 percent false claims, ASOS with 89 percent and M&S with 88 percent false claims. H & M’s Conscious Collection was also found to contain an even higher percentage of synthetic materials than the main collection (72 percent versus 61 percent). 85 percent of Boohoo products contained some type of synthetic, with 60 percent being 100 percent synthetic.
Livia Firth, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Eco-Age, said: “For us at Eco-Age, this report comes in at the moment we need it most. There is so much greenwashing going on around circularity – a much needed business model that we all have to adopt but is made almost impossible in the fashion industry by the huge amount of synthetic fibers used. In this regard, we have also worked at EU level to ensure that the proposed PEF label uses the correct methodology and we hope that the EU Commission will consider this groundbreaking report to ensure the right legislative path.
The report also revealed the extent of the fashion industry’s reliance on fossil fuel based fibers. While some brands do make a commitment to refrain from using pure polyester, they make no such commitment when it comes to synthetics in general. Most brands aim to solve the fossil fashion problem by replacing pure polyester with downcycled one-way plastic bottles, a wrong solution as it is a one-way street to landfill or incinerate.
Urska Trunk, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets, said, “While brands are quick to capitalize on consumer concerns by using sustainability as a marketing ploy, most of these claims are all style, not substance. At the same time, while washing their clothing collections green, they have been reluctant to adopt truly circular solutions, for example by not making the necessary investments to ensure a future in which clothing can be recycled back into clothing. ”
Single use plastics
High street retailer H&M reported that 90 percent of its recycled polyester comes from single-use plastic bottles. Like H&M, Primark and the Zara Group Inditex rely on the wrong solution of downcycling single-use plastic bottles. Unlike others, however, Inditex reported that it has invested € 3 million to fund technological innovations to research textile recycling solutions, including the MIT-Spain Inditex Circularity Seed Fund.
The problem with plastics
Synthetic fibers make up 69 percent of all materials used in textiles. That number is expected to climb to nearly three quarters by 2030, of which 85 percent will be polyester, a material made from fossil fuels like oil and fracking gas. Synthetic fiber production currently accounts for 1.35 percent of global oil consumption, which exceeds Spain’s annual oil consumption and amounts to 1.29 billion barrels of oil per year.
Not only are cheap synthetic fibers harmful because they enable low-quality clothing to end up in the trash, but they also keep the fashion industry dependent on fossil fuel extraction during a climate emergency.
Microplastics have also proven to be a critical blind spot for most brands. Despite the known harms they do to human and environmental health – including recent research that microplastics in placenta, stool, and even able to cross the blood-brain barrier – it has been found that the vast majority of brands is asleep at the wheel when it comes to microplastics, delaying meaningful measures by citing uncertainty and calling for even more research.
The report also cited Patagonia and Adidas, often considered leaders and innovators in the field of fashion sustainability. According to the report, while Patagonia encourages people to “buy less, ask for more” and to join the “fight against irresponsible, fast-paced fashion making,” it makes no commitment to turn away from plastics.
Patagonia said in a statement to Vogue Business that synthetic fibers are needed for outerwear and protection from the elements. They said, “There’s a reason cotton can’t be used for everything,” especially technical clothing. With the fur industry now in twilight, innovations in thermal technology, performance and arctic weather protection urgently require further investment to find new sustainable solutions.
No fashion brand is leading the change against synthetic fibers
Not a single brand has been rated as a front runner for their approach to plastics; Together with the greenwashing revealed in the report, this suggests that the industry still has a long way to go to make a meaningful contribution to tackling the climate and plastic crisis.
Article source: “Synthetics Anonymous: Fashion Brands’ Addiction to Fossil Fuels” by Changing Markets