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Clothing made from recycled plastic bottles: Greatest invention or worst mistake of our time?

Clothing made from recycled plastic bottles: Greatest invention or worst mistake of our time?

We have received a lot of great feedback and questions around our last blog post- Are all natural materials created equal?, specifically around the recycled plastic bottle section. Within the last few years, several companies have become massively successful for creating wearable comfortable materials by spinning recycled plastic bottles with cotton or other poly materials. On the surface, this sounds incredible. Single use plastic is horrible for the environment and developing a technology to turn it into a multi-use product and hopefully keep it out of our waters and landfills is a mission that a lot of humans have gotten behind. But, studies show that this material might be doing more harm than good.

A study published by Nature.com uncovered one of the root causes for microplastics in our oceans and water supply is directly attributed to washing synthetic clothing. In this study, wash trials at real scale were performed on commercial clothes by using a household washing machine in order to gain reliable data about the release of microplastics, and to identify possible influences of textile characteristics on the release. The wastewater was collected and filtered through subsequent filters with decreasing porosity, and the amount and dimensions of microfibres were determined. They found that microplastic pollution caused by washing processes of synthetic textiles is the MAIN source of primary microplastics in the oceans and that these particles could pass through wastewater treatment plants with ease and ultimately pose a significant threat for marine organisms and humans. 

Not only are millions of particles being released into our water systems during every wash, contact with this material has also been studied, and the results are pretty concerning. According to Ecocult, the reason why experts consider single use plastic a one time use product is because they recommend that you never reuse a disposable water bottle due to chemicals such as Bisphenols leaching out, which are associated with several health issues including cancer. Scientists have found high levels of antimony, a heavy metal and potential carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, in disposable PET water bottles (the kind that are recycled into polyester). What is scary is that these chemicals begin leaching as the temperature increases and most of the companies who are marketing recycled plastic clothing are fitness or athletic brands. 

With this knowledge, consumers who are looking to make an impact by supporting companies that are actively trying to improve our world should steer clear of these products. The real focus should be eliminating all single use plastic from the start and focusing on creating replacements though natural products.

Our founders are ex-professional athletes who realized that clothing can have adverse effects on human health. Opok is an organic clothing brand with a goal to reduce or eliminate toxic chemical exposure through clothing and ultimately fix an industry that has wreaked havoc on our environment. We manufacture our clothing sustainably with wind and solar energy and we make sure that we don’t have any toxic runoff or fumes emitting from our facility.