Almost all the clothes in your closet are made from polyester, one of the most popular textiles on the market. It’s become one of the go-to clothing fabrics because it’s cheap, durable and light-weight.  However, not many people know about the dark side of the polyester industry. It’s one the most destructive textiles on the planet.

Two British chemists, John Rex Whinfield and James Tennant Dickson, invented polyester in 1941.

I can’t ignore the fact most clothes are made of this versatile fabric and it would be super difficult to stop buying it altogether.  But there are plenty of reasons why polyester should be avoided to the best of your ability.

Polyester is a synthetic, man-made textile that’s usually derived from petroleum. It’s a non-biodegradable material that can be categorized as a plastic. Interestingly, it only rose to popularity in the 1970s when it was marketed as a “miracle fiber” that’s easy to clean and maintain. From this point onwards, polyester clothes were mass-produced like never before.

The mass production of 100% polyester clothing slowed down after consumers realized it’s not a comfortable clothing fabric. All those scratchy, lint-ball covered jerseys in your closet are most likely made of this low-quality material. The fabric isn’t very breathable either. It can leave you feeling sweaty and restricted if you wear it for too long. Ultimately, it’s not advisable for anyone with sensitive skin as it aggravates skin rashes, eczema and redness.

To make matters worse, polyester has had adverse effects on the environment. The production of polyester involves the use of harmful chemicals and carcinogens. As a result, the industry contributes to water and air pollution. If left untreated, it causes irreversible environmental damage. China, India, and other South-East Asian countries manufacture most of the world’s polyester. The environmental policies in these countries are more lenient than other regions of the world. This makes it possible for them to mass produce polyester without any consequences.

It’s virtually impossible to completely avoid polyester. However, you can make smarter choices. The label of a fabric  indicates what materials make up the product. Try to find items made of natural materials like cotton, silk, wool and cashmere. These high-quality materials are often more comfortable to wear and less harmful to the environment.

The US produced more than 1.28 million metric tons of polyester in 2019.

Once you start buying clothes made of natural fabrics , you’ll notice that most of your pieces last much longer. Modern polyesters can replicate the look and feel of real silk and wool, but they’re still blended with low-quality synthetic materials that you should steer clear of buying. However, blended fabrics are a better option than 100% polyesters. Generally, it’s better to buy a blended fabric item if you can’t find anything else.

If you’re an environmental activist and you want clothes to last longer than a year, avoid polyester. It might seem trivial at first, but making small changes like this could be highly beneficial in the long run. Your clothes won’t fade, gather lint-balls and make you feel uncomfortable. 

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  • Luale Monze

    Luale Monze is a well-versed journalist, copywriter and social media strategist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Luale won't shy away from starting new projects, collaborating with fellow creators, and learning as she goes. With a BA in Journalism & Media Studies and a desire to tell meaningful stories, she is ready to take on the world.

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