Our Clothes as a Solution: Natural vs Synthetic Fibers
Source- SuperMacro Rope (accessed 8 July 2021)
In this blog post, we will be discussing natural versus synthetic fibres and by spreading awareness on where the fibres in our clothing come from, we hope to help you make sustainable eco-friendly decisions and help foster an ethical fashion market.
Fibres are a part of our daily lives. The fabrics and textiles we use daily can be characterized as either natural or synthetic fibres. Natural fibres come from plants and animals whereas synthetic fibres are made from chemical compounds. The use of natural fibres for textile and fashion purposes is dated back to ancient civilizations. In fact, natural fibres such as hemp fibres were used for textiles in the Middle East and China around 8000 BC, and spinning linen was maturing in Egypt by 3400 BC (Shareef, 2021). Flax is the oldest and the most used natural fibre (Preisner, 2000). The production of synthetic fibres began only in 1910 by commercially producing rayon fibre because of technological development (Gupta, 2007). Today about 60 per cent of our fibres used in clothing are made from synthetic fibres (Resnick, 2018).
All fibres used in the fashion industry can have a significant environmental impact. Sustainable by nature, natural fibres in textile and fashion production certainly serve as one of the best answers for a sustainable fashion industry worldwide. Natural fibres are a part of the ecosystem. They are renewable, sustainable, and biodegradable (Chandramohan, 2011). Furthermore, they are non-toxic for humans and wildlife. Some natural fibres even hold antimicrobial properties which allow for them to be washed less, saving water and energy (Asim, 2017). When compared to synthetic fibres, natural fibres consume less energy and use less water in their production. Synthetic fibres, although sustainable by nature, are not necessarily eco-friendly when it comes to environmental impacts. Especially since synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon create micro-plastics that in turn pollute the environment, especially the oceans (Corami, 2020). As a result, natural fibres in textile and fashion production serve as one of the best answers towards a sustainable fashion industry worldwide.
Families around the world are in dire situations, due to the loss of dependency on natural fibre production (Adekomaya, 2016). An increase in the adoption of natural fibres can promote development in rural areas. For example, over the years at Hechos x Nosotros, we have impacted the lives of more than 7,500 artisans and producers by giving preparation workshops and job opportunities. In terms of sustainability, indigenous communities in Latin America have huge potential due to their high-quality amounts of natural fibres and traditional textile practices.
Natural fibres foster sustainable communities that can have a positive impact on biodiversity through the protection against desertification and pollution as well as by serving as an alternative to chemical processed fibres. Natural fibres are the most responsible answer when it comes to choosing our clothes. The choice of natural fibres is about comfort, quality, and a positive impact on our planet. By choosing these fibres, we are opting for a positive impact on our planet and communities, improving health, well-being, and local development. Today sustainability is a leading characteristic of textile fashion products. Textile fashion companies are focusing more on sustainable products to meet the environmental and social aspects. With the choice of natural fibres, the fashion industry could fuel this eco-friendly strategy and a solution that goes back in time.
Adekomaya, O., Jamiru, T., Sadiku, R., & Huan, Z. (2016). A review on the sustainability of natural fibre in matrix reinforcement – A practical perspective. Journal of Reinforced Plastics and Composites, 35(1), 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731684415611974
Asim, M., Jawaid, M., Saba, N., Nasir, M., & Sultan, M. T. H. (2017). Processing of hybrid polymer composites—a review. Hybrid polymer composite materials, 1-22.
Chandramohan, D., & Marimuthu, K. (2011). A review on natural fibres. International Journal of Research and Reviews in Applied Sciences, 8(2), 194-206.
Corami, F., Rosso, B., Bravo, B., Gambaro, A., & Barbante, C. (2020). A novel method for purification, quantitative analysis and characterization of microplastic fibres using Micro-FTIR. Chemosphere, 238, 124564.
Gupta, B. S. (2007). Manufactured textile fibres. In Kent and Riegel’s Handbook of Industrial Chemistry and Biotechnology(pp. 431-498). Springer, Boston, MA.
Preisner, M., Wojtasik, W., Kulma, A., Żuk, M., & Szopa, J. (2000). Flax fibre. Kirk‐Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 1-32
Resnick, B. (2018, September 19). More than ever, our clothes are made of plastic. Just washing them can pollute the oceans. Vox. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/9/19/17800654/clothes-plastic-pollution-polyester-washing-machine.
Shareef, R. A., & Al-Alwan, H. A. S. (2021, February). Sustainable textile architecture: history and prospects. In IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering (Vol. 1067, No. 1, p. 012046). IOP Publishing.