04 November 2023

My new trousers were made from plastic bottles

It takes many years to wear out dress clothes enough to justify replacing them, and in that interval things change.  While ordering replacement slacks online, I carefully selected the manufacturer's name, the waist and inseam, the color, and the style - but never thought to check the fabric.  The slacks that arrived carried this tag.  

The material fulfills the definition of a "fabric" (it's woven) and a "cloth" (made of fibers), but the woven fibers are recycled plastic, and I assume pretty much equivalent to what we used to call "polyester."  The manufacturers report that they are recycling over 4,000 plastic bottles per minute.

I'm posting this not as virtue-signaling, but rather to seek advice from readers about the quality of fabrics like this.  It looks to be wrinkle-free and probably stain-resistant, and it's a bit clingy from static electricity and very lightweight.  I suspect if I try to research the subject the first page of hits will be puff pieces and promotional items.  So I would like readers to share with me (and other readers) their experiences wearing this new plastic fabric. 


  1. I'm not that convinced these 'new' fabrics are really that much better for anything.
    In my experience, they tend to trap odours more.
    Washing them causes microplastics to be released in the water supply anyways.
    The production process and simply wearing these clothes causes the release of microplastics in the environment as well.
    So in my opinion, these types of clothes do more harm than good.

  2. This is probably not a great contribution to the discussion, but I'd be concerned about the amount of microplastics released at each wash. In terms of environmental impact, the worst choice is probably buying garments made with virgin plastic, but is recycling plastic this way better or worse than it going to landfill?

  3. The environmentally responsible choice is nudity.

  4. Almost all of my clothes came from an oil well.
    If there's any elastic properties in your socks or t-shirt that counts, too.

  5. patagonia have been selling a t-shirt called ‘responsibili-tee’ for a couple of years now – it’s a blended fabric made from recycled plastic (bottles) and cotton scraps from factory floors. i have one and am quite happy with it – it deals well with sweat, for a blended fabric (i.e. tolerably, overall. it dries much faster than a cotton tee but falls short of a fully wicking synthetic). it feels good on the skin and is pretty durable. my main use for that kind of garment is rock climbing (on our local coarse sandstone), so it does see some abuse i wouldn’t want to inflict on a merino shirt, and way too much activity for cotton.

    vetzakske is right in that a fully synthetic garment can get smelly faster, hence them coming with antibacterial treatments like silver ion or the like is pretty common. but it’s no worse than cotton. that’s what washing is for. all in all, i’d expect the fabric to deal better with moisture, be that from sweat or being rained on. if the material can’t soak up much moisture, it will be dry faster. probably pretty easy to care for, too, and pretty ‘stable’ over time. i’d expect less bagging out or the like.

    as for the environmental impact, things are never easy. it’s easy to say ‘ah, but microplastics, unlike natural fibers’, but that leaves out that cotton requires a lot of water, and producing it at scale inflicts a lot of pesticides on the environment. i believe that the, overall, best course is to buy things that are made from a material that is well suited to what you want to do with it, that are versatile, where production and material sourcing are as conscious of their impact as possible, then take good care of them, and wear them until they absolutely fall apart instead of falling prey to the fashion industry’s ‘industrialisation of novelty’. less, but better.

  6. This makes me remind myself not to wear clingy polyester clothes on a humid summer day. or any other day for that matter!

    "a fully wicking synthetic" = I have not found one yet that is comfortable (meaning it does not feel like I am wearing a plastic bag).

    Having lived in humid climes, I learned from the native dress - loose clothes of natural fibers.

  7. Somewhat related, I was at the store today looking at random Christmas stuff (yes, already) and noticed a rather soft and fluffy stuffed animal that had the same tag; made of recycled plastic bottles. I found this rather pleasing.

  8. (Might be a duplicate comment, "there was an error while publishing" my first comment.)
    I had my old prejudices about polyester but it -- as capilene, thinsulate, synchilla, etc--has come a long way. Virginia Postrel, historian of textiles, wrote an excellent piece at Works in Progress: https://worksinprogress.co/issue/how-polyester-bounced-back

    1. An excellent longread - and an interesting source! Thanks for the link.

  9. I can't say if this kind of fabric is good or bad. What I will suggest is that any "solution" to our environmental mess that points us toward eco-tech validated consumption, vs total reduction in consumption, is a not helpful. In fact, when plastic comes back to me in the form of a shirt, the message is that plastic is okay. It's been redeemed. You've done a stellar job of posting on the subject of plastic fraudulently marketed (green-washed) by global corporations. I think this kind of fabric trends to have the same psychological effect. Overall, the solution is to NOT BUY ANOTHER THING and use what we have to death, before we buy another product, which ought to be extremely durable. Our great-grandparents would marvel at the way clothes are tossed after an average of seven uses. It's not like we don't have another way, requiring no new, wonderful high-tech inventions. We just need some sanity.


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