Plastic is everywhere, in our homes, on our streets and in our oceans. Since the 19th century when plastic was invented, our usage of the ‘miracle material’ has been increasing. In 2017, we had produced over 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste. What’s even more staggering is that 6.3 billion tons of this was not recycled… just simply left as waste to pollute the planet. There are many ways we can prevent this from happening in the first place, but what can we do with what we have already created? This is where creativity comes in and fashion meets environment.
Models Alice Marlow (left), Jemima Hobbs (centre) & Ose Oaiya (right)
The Life in Plastic Project:
Led by Zoe Georgio, the deputy Fashion Editor at Hard Magazine, the project was set up to breathe life back into waste plastic by creating modern fashion items. These captivating pieces were created from all manor of plastic waste including bin liners, bubble wrap, old laundry bags and table covers. Put together by Zoe and Alice Mowll, the outfits ranged from dresses and skirts to bandos and vest tops. They highlight that anything can be recycled into something new, even stylish clothing.
“I was completely unaware of how much plastic we use and how much of an impact it has on the environment. Unfortunately we live in a plastic age, we consume so much plastic on a daily basis. For instance, ordering online – think of all the plastic that is used in the packaging and within the clothing itself. It’s a never ending cycle of plastic! This was my inspiration for the project.” – Zoe
Ose wearing what once was a plastic laundry bag.
The project message comes at an important time for all of us with the IPCC recently releasing a new report where top scientists have warned we have about a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5°C. After which, even half a degree higher will dramatically increase the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The report comes in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.
But what has this got to do with fashion?
It turns out, the fashion industry has a large role to play in society and has extraordinary consequences for the environment. So much so, that the clothing industry has been labelled ‘“the second largest polluter in the world, in line behind oil” by the likes of Eileen Fisher. The industry is a vast and complicated network; it involves having long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the clothing item.
Jemima wearing what once was a discarded piece of bubble wrap.
Many environmental issues like chemical leaching, microfibres in oceans, water contamination, rainforest and soil degradation and waste accumulation stem directly from the industry but in relation to climate change the release of greenhouse gases is arguably the most dangerous.
The release of these gases are due to the energy used during the production, manufacturing, and transportation. In particular synthetic fibers (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.) are made from fossil fuels, in countries like China, Bangladesh, or India where most of our clothes a produced.
Fashion and Plastic
The UK produces around 76kg (167lbs) of plastic waste per person per year. As an abundant waste material, it is ideal for clothing designers; plastic is unbelievably durable so perfect for creating long lasting clothing, but not for the planet. Plastic can take anywhere from 50 years (styrofoam cup) to 600 years (fishing Line)to biodegrade. The majority of plastic ends up in the oceans after travelling through river systems. To combat this globally, many countries are now moving away from single-use plastics by posing charges or outright prohibitions. According to the BBC the UK is also moving to ban plastic straws and cotton buds. Zero plastic waste shops are opening in many towns and cities too. But on a local scale, projects like Zoe’s ‘Life in Plastic’ are imperative for, not just recycling the waste plastic that remains, but also to raise awareness about environmental issues surrounding the fashion Industry.