Biodegradable: Natural vs. Synthetic

Biodegradable: Natural vs. Synthetic

Donating our clothes is always a great feeling. We are giving away a piece of clothing we once loved to someone who needs it more. However, the fate of those clothes that do not get selected is not pretty. The undesirable pieces end up in landfills.

Americans generate 82 pounds of textile waste per person. That adds up to more than 11 million tons of textile waste per year. While there are ways to reduce the fabrics that go to landfills, there is still a heavily large amount that ends up there where it sits for years, and as it decomposes, it emits methane—a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon. This dilemma is something we should bring attention to and do our best to create solutions.  

One simple solution we are all capable of doing is paying more attention to the clothing label. The label tells us what our clothing is made of and gives us an insight into what we should avoid. Certain fabrics will decompose at a faster rate while sitting in landfills. 

There is a distinction between natural and synthetic fibers. We should avoid synthetic and embrace natural fibers because of their biodegradation. Synthetic fabrics are man-made and manufactured by machines. These fabrics include polyester, rayon, and spandex, which takes 20 to 200 years to decompose. During their creation process, they emit tons of carbon into the air to produce a single shirt.   

On the other hand, natural fibers are produced from plants, animals, and geological processes. These fabrics include cotton, silk, wool, and hemp. Cotton is one of the most biodegradable fabrics you can have, especially if it is 100% cotton. In compost, cotton may biodegrade within as little as a week but usually takes about 5 months. Linen is another fine material that can decompose in as little as two weeks if it is all-natural. It is recommended you cut the fabric into small pieces to allow it to decompose better and faster. Click here to see how quickly other fabrics break down. 

Since carbon emission has decreased during the pandemic, we should take advantage of this improvement and push for continuous progress. Doing simple and small things every day can lead to a sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. So build a new habit of checking the label and consciously buy clothing. 

Thank you so much for reading today’s post. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to the next one on the ethical dilemma of thrifting. 

Much love, 

Thy Phan 

Sources: The True Cut, Edge,  Eco WorldEnsia  


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