Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recycling Advancements Through Technology: Plastic in Fashion

When we think of plastic we tend our first thoughts seem to go to water bottles or bags. The fashion industry is another faction of our lives that plastic prevails. There are many sources in the industry that is not immediately obvious. Through the supply chain, or the process in which the clothes are being made to being bought, there is a great deal of packaging that is involved. For instance a delivery of clothes from the factory to the rack. The garments are put into plastic bags, when done with traveling, they get thrown out. This is a small part of the issues in the industry yet it makes a huge impact. Polyester is another example of plastic going into fashion. The synthetic textile is used everywhere in the fashion industry; it is easily capable of being mixed with different materials. Polyester’s attributes are what make it a preference in use of garments, it is strong and lightweight. Like cotton, though, it also has it’s own difficulties in being recycled. Plastic in its notoriety does not break down or degrade well.

Recycling plastic has been an attempt to keep it from permeating out into the world. The process of recycled plastic involves melting and forming it to make new plastic products. This is not a perfect solution, the growth of plastic pollution is still growing. Companies still prefer to use plastic from original source materials. Much of the plastic that is used also slips through the recycling process, a majority of what is in the ocean, for instance, is microscopic. What is needed is diversification of practices. Researchers have long been working in various ways in response to this looming threat.

Science’s advancements are a slow process. It takes time to develop technology or understand the nuances of a new finding. An interesting discovery that has been recently discussed is Ideonella sakaiensis. This is a microbe that lives on PET (poly(ethyleneterephthalate)), a common plastic that goes into a multitude of products including clothes. Discovered by a team in Japan, they have identified the enzymes that break down PET. While plastic eating microbes have been discussed before, this research seems to have taken a step further in being able to manufacture the enzyme which can break down PET on its own. It could break down plastic to create a more effective recycling system. This does not mean that it can be put into practice right away; again, it takes time, but it is a step in further than we were before. For now we’ll have to find practices that limit the amount of plastic produced.

One company that has taken a step in recycling clothes is Bionic. This company is focused on taking trashed plastic and creating fabric out of it. Plastic is used to create strands that go into the yarn, thus the fabric. Question is, will they use plastic bags to ship their material?

Lorch, Mark. "Scientists Just Discovered Plastic-eating Bacteria That Can Break down PET." Science Alert, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 Aug. 2016. 

Netburn, Deborah. "These Newly Discovered Bacteria Can Eat Plastic Bottles." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 Aug. 2016. http://www.sciencealert.com/new-plastic-munching-bacteria-could-fuel-a-recycling-revolution


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