Don’t like wrinkled clothes? Don’t like to iron? Then buy materials with polyester? Perhaps we want to think again about what is convenient, practical, or time saving. All choices have consequences, right?
Sisters and Associates in the Congregation participate in a campaign against the wide use of plastics—straws, containers, bags. Clothing/materials have escaped our attention, yet 60% of our clothing made out of plastic. Polyester comes from oil—a polymer which is a long chain of repeating molecular units; the synthetic polyester of clothing results from a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air, and water (one type: purified terephthalic acid or PTS). (For the non-chemical engineer the names are tongue-twisters.) Polyester has become ubiquitous in clothing because the threads in the spinning process can be spun short or long which enables blending the threads with the natural fabric threads of cotton, wool or silk. And so we can have our warm fleece or non-wrinkle pants or fast-drying shirts. Did you know that China is a leader in producing all plastic clothing?
A major problem exists, however: producing polyester requires great amounts of fuel—oil and coal—which releases significant CO2 into our atmosphere—adding to the CO2 and methane trapping the sun’s heat on our earth and into our oceans. We in the US and peoples around the world in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia experience its consequences of extremes in heat, fires, droughts, and home losses. Do we include all the animals, fish, and birds lost in these events?
Another related consequence is adding to the amount of plastic in our earth’s water. In laundering fleece and other materials-often of 50-50 polyester fabric composition-microfibers are released by heat into the waste water, ending up in our oceans, lakes, rivers for ingestion by aquatic creatures and us.
All of us can and must speak up and resist continued dependence upon fossil fuels.