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Big fashion brands ‘addicted’ to synthetic fossil fuel fibers

07/03/2021 at 4:26 PM CEST

New research from the Changing Markets Foundation has found that the world’s largest fashion brands are contributing to plastic pollution and the climate crisis through their continued dependence on synthetic fibers made from fossil fuels.

The report, titled Synthetics Anonymous: The Addiction of Fashion Brands to Fossil Fuels, looks at nearly 50 major fashion brands. Between these, assesses 46 of the supposedly most transparent brands in the worldFrom fast fashion to luxury fashion including Zara, Primark, H&M and Nike, on the presence of fossil fuel-based materials in their collections and their commitment to stay away from them.

Additionally, the investigation analyzes 12 brands detailed in the report, where more than 4,000 products are examined in depth, revealing that brands like H&M and ASOS routinely mislead consumers by implementing greenwashing tactics.

It is also found that other companies hide the fact that their collections called “eco-conscious” often contain as much synthetic fiber as their main lines. For example, H & M’s conscious collection contains an even higher proportion of synthetic textiles than the main collection.

The report also revealed that while some brands are pledging to stop using virgin polyester, they are not doing so with synthetic fibers in general.

Most brands aim to address the fossil fashion problem by replacing virgin polyester with single-use PET plastic bottles that are being under-recycled. Using PET bottles is part of the fake solutions manual of the ‘throwaway’ industry, because it is a direct path to landfill, incineration or pollution of seas and oceans.

Brand evaluation has found that:

-According to the analysis of online stores, 45% of Zara’s sustainable ‘Join Life’ collection contained synthetics.

-Zara’s group, Inditex, has been listed as one of those that uses synthetics the most by weight, comparable to the sports giant Nike, in response to the questionnaire conducted by the Changing Markets Foundation.

-59% of the sustainability claims of European fashion brands were unsubstantiated or misleading.

«The big fashion brands are addicted to the use of synthetic textiles produced from oil and gas. It is disturbing to see all the green image wash that these great fashion brands carry out, selling products whose descriptions not only mislead consumers, but also make them believe that by buying these “more sustainable” garments they are somehow saving the world. said Ximena Banegas of Changing Markes.

The “false solution” of using recycled plastic

More than three-quarters (85%) of companies plan to achieve sustainability standards with the false solution of using recycled plastic bottles, according to the report. The H&M chain, for example, reported that 90% of its recycled polyester comes from single-use plastic bottles.

“They rely on the bogus solution of under-recycling single-use plastic bottles,” the study authors note.

Synthetic fibers account for more than two-thirds (69%) of all materials used in textiles. This figure is expected to reach almost three-quarters by 2030, of which 85% will be polyester, a material produced from fossil fuels such as fractured oil and gas. The production of synthetic fibers currently accounts for 1.35% of world oil consumption, which exceeds the annual consumption of oil in Spain and amounts to 1,290 million barrels of oil per year.

“Cheap synthetic fibers are not only harmful because they allow low-quality clothing that ends up being wasted, but they also perpetuate the fashion industry’s dependence on fossil fuel extraction during the current climate emergency,” the study indicates.

The 15 brands that get the worst ratings are those with minimal or no transparency about the use of synthetics, or any numerical information about the use of synthetics on their websites, including Primark, Patagonia, Nike and Gap.

Green image wash

European clothing brands rank as some of the worst brands when it comes to greenwashing, with an average of 59% of European company claims being unsubstantiated or potentially misleading to consumers.

Of all the brands analyzed, fast-fashion giant Zara and luxury brand Gucci made the fewest statements deemed misleading; while at the other end of the spectrum, 96% of H&M claims and 89% of ASOS claims violated the guidance in some way.

Not only does the H&M Conscious Collection use more synthetics than their main collection, but almost a fifth of the items are made from 100% synthetic materials, including 94% of the women’s jackets in this collection.

The role of the consumer

Not a single brand was the leader in its approach to synthetic fibers; Coupled with the green image wash exposed in the report, this suggests that the industry has a long way to go to help address the climate and plastic crisis in a meaningful way.

The report urges brands to address their addiction to fossil fuel-derived synthetics, commit to ambitious climate goals, and invest in truly circular solutions.

“Before making any purchase, consumers should think twice about the clothes they wear and questioning the integrity of the stores they shop at, ”notes Changing Markets.

Finally, in anticipation of the next EU textile strategy, the report calls on legislators to take action to address the large amount of low-quality clothing produced by the fast fashion industry and ensure that brands are more transparent and accountable. about their supply chains and the end of life of their products.

Furthermore, measures are needed to end the green image wash, which according to research is completely rampant in the industry.

Summary of the report in Spanish: http: //changingmarkets.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/CM-EX-SUM-FINAL-SPANISH-SYNTETHIC-ANONYMOUS-WEB.pdf

Full report: http://changingmarkets.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/SyntheticsAnonymous_FinalWeb.pdf

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