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T-Shirt Horror: Cotton vs Polyester Tees And Enviromental Impact

Once in a couple of days there’s a post in our feed that tells about huge environmental impact of cotton. As we are true admirers of natural materials, Treasure Box team decided to find out, what’s wrong with cotton T-shirts and is polyester really better?

There are many factors that influence the sustainable credentials of a fabric, including how much water or energy it takes to produce, where in the world it is manufactured and how it’s production affects biodiversity. Let’s compare.


 

QUALITIES

Cotton

Breathable: This natural fiber lets your skin breathe. It also absorbs moisture to keep your body temperature stable.

Soft, but strong: The fibers are less abrasive than polyester, so it feels super soft on your skin. That being said, some cotton fabric is designed to be strong and rough, like heavy duty cotton canvas. It all depends on the weave and the finish.

Great for sensitive skin: Because it is so much softer, those with sensitive skin tolerate 100% cotton better than polyester. With organic products becoming increasingly popular, you can find cotton fabric made with very little chemical processing.

Easy to dye: The fibers hold dye incredibly well. It also tends to dye evenly and produce a truer, deeper color. However, with excessive exposure to sunlight and time (decades), the dye will eventually fade. Also, cotton will shrink with the first washing and drying.

Biodegradable: Cotton will break down over time. Cotton isn’t as durable as polyester in the long run. However, proper care can prolong the life of cotton. Try to avoid prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight and moisture.

Polyester

Long lasting: Polyester is a man-made fiber. It’s very resilient and can withstand a good deal of wear and tear. It’s basically plastic. In fact, plastic bottles can be recycled into polyester fabric. Polyester is not compostable, meaning it doesn’t break down well in soil. Think about this in a landfill.

Less fading: Polyester holds dye well to prevent fading, but doesn’t produce as “rich” of a color as cotton. High-quality polyester holds its shape well and doesn’t shrink.

Dries quickly: Unlike cotton, polyester isn’t absorbent. It’s definitely not your go-to for towels. However, it dries super fast. So if you want to reduce that electricity bill, you might want to sew polyester clothing.

Less wrinkling: It’s more resistant to wrinkles than cotton. This is great for anyone who dreads ironing.

Nonbreathing: Polyester doesn’t let your skin breathe like cotton. For instance, if you wear a polyester shirt in the summer, you might find yourself pretty sweaty. That being said, there are many performance wear polyester products specifically engineered to wick sweat away from your body, but it really only works if the fabric is skin tight. If you buy a low-quality product, you’ll notice a weird after smell.

Nonbiodegradable: Long-lasting micro-fibers are too tiny for our wastewater treatment technologies to remove, and are turning up in drinking water supplies, rivers, lakes and oceans, and are even turning up in the oceanic food chains, even in fish and other sea-life we eat. Invisible to the unaided eye, tiny micro-fibers become airborne particles, just look at your dryer’s lint filter, where some do get trapped. Tiny bits of micro-fiber particles are constantly shed by polyester clothing due to wear, and especially during the washing and drying processes, and they end up in our water and in the air we breathe.

So, we’ve found basic information on cotton and polyester and it’s for you to decide - what T-shirt suits you best.

 

The Sources:

http://www.sustainability-ed.org.uk/pages/example4-3.htm

https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/blog/411-cotton-vs-polyester-pros-cons/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/fabrics-environment-fast-fashion-eco-friendly-pollution-waste-polyester-cotton-fur-recycle-a8963921.html

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