We're all familiar with those heart-wrenching images of birds, sea turtles, and wildlife suffocating in plastic packaging. Our planet and oceans are drowning in the stuff! It’s hard to believe that plastics have only been around since 1907. Talk about a swift and impressive job of cluttering our ecosystem in the blink of a historical eye! Now, when we think of plastic pollution, the fashion industry may not come to mind as one of the main culprits. But let’s remind ourselves that fashion is the second most environmentally damaging industry after petroleum! Now, we’ll shed some light on the role of fashion on plastic pollution, and discuss the relevance of sustainable packaging as part of the solution to the problem.
By now, we're well aware of the dirty laundry the fashion industry hides. The chemicals leaking into our soil and water, the excessive CO2 emissions, and those questionable work conditions in production facilities have led to plenty of investigations and media attention. But what about the mountains of plastic generated along the textile supply chain? Particularly in the realm of online shopping, the fashion industry produces staggering amounts of plastic waste.
First and foremost, roughly 70% of our modern textile fibres are derived from plastic, which not only releases micro plastics into our oceans and groundwater during laundry sessions but also leaves us drowning in a sea of non-biodegradable rubbish when we toss aside those disposable fashion pieces. What about recycling, you may ask. Well you might want to read our article for a reality check on fashion recycling. Spoiler alert: it’s grim! But for now, let's focus on tackling one issue at a time, starting with packaging waste.
Plastic Waste from Packaging
Plastic waste, in the form of packaging, plagues the textile supply chain. You see, those delicate textile products need protection from the environmental elements – moisture, dirt, and mould – during their grand journeys from production to your closet. And we're not just talking about the journey of the finished product from the online shop to you as a consumer but also all the transportation stages from raw materials through textile factories, dyeing facilities and the retailer's warehouse. Unfortunately, these stages are often completely opaque, making it almost impossible to trace the mountain of packaging waste generated before your beloved purchase even reaches your doorstep.
But wait, there's more! Once your cherished package arrives, it doesn't guarantee that it has reached its final destination. With the convenience of free returns, almost half of the online clothing purchases end up on a return journey! Cue the gasps of horror. Not only does this lead to another round of CO2-emitting transportation but it also births a fresh wave of plastic waste as items are endlessly repackaged. So, what are the alternatives to plastic packaging that can protect our fashion items during transportation?
Alternatives to Plastic
Thankfully, the fashion industry has been getting its eco-friendly groove on, exploring alternatives to plastic for packaging purposes. Enter bio plastics made from algae or sugarcane, wood-based films, and even Styrofoam derived from mushrooms. These biodegradable materials possess qualities like odour resistance, durability, and protection that can rival their nefarious plastic counterparts. However, it's important to take the term “bio plastic” with a pinch of salt, as not all of them consist of biodegradable materials. The undefined term "bio plastic" can be a bit of a wildcard, encompassing three different possibilities:
- Petroleum-based plastic that is biodegradable.
- Bio-based plastic that is biodegradable or compostable.
- Bio-based plastic that is not biodegradable.
Therefore, we recommend reading between the lines carefully when brands, particularly fast fashion corporations, try to greenwash themselves with "bio plastic". As you probably already know, not everything that is “bio” is beyond guilt. And to be honest, we don’t always need the most innovative and newest materials to transport our clothing securely. Besides bio plastics, we still have the good ol’ recycled paper bags.
Plastic-Free Packaging at SANVT
As a sustainable fashion brand, SANVT is committed to improving the reputation of the fashion industry and treating nature and people with dignity and respect. Being fully aware of the consequences of plastic waste and striving to be as environmentally friendly as possible, our packaging is 100% plastic-free! We avoid polyester bags and other plastic types, opting instead for reusable and recycled paper envelopes to package our sustainable basics. Old but gold!
In addition to exclusively producing our collection with environmentally-friendly and biodegradable materials, and keeping our transportation routes and emissions as short as possible, we also plant a tree for every product sold to further optimise our environmental footprint. It’s a small gesture on top of our efforts to keep our production as sustainable as possible but, after all, we believe it's the little things that make a big difference.
Sustainable Packaging in Fashion: Conclusion
In summary, the clothing industry urgently needs to find ways to package fashion more sustainably along the entire production chain in order to reduce plastic and packaging waste. Sustainable packaging is just as relevant as sustainable clothing itself. Otherwise, it's like buying an organically grown cucumber wrapped in plastic.
For a deep dive into our sustainability initiatives and how transparently we document them, check out our 2022 Impact Report at SANVT.