Polybags Suck

Polybags suck. Something we can all agree on, right?

We hate plastic as much as you do. But the prevalence of the notorious polybag is a reality we face in the clothing industry. That little bag your clothes showed up in is key to keeping them safe from damage during transit, warehousing, and shipping. Without them, much of the product would arrive damaged and then comes the big, bad L word (aka it ends up in a landfill).

We are always working to make the best decisions for the environment and for our customers, and – real talk – the polybag that each garment is wrapped in is currently our biggest challenge.

Here’s what we’re doing to address it.

  • •Since the beginning, we’ve made our polybags from recycled plastic.
  • •A few years ago, we audited our bags to reduce the amount of plastic used. We made the bags as thin as we possibly could and reduced the overall average size.
  • •We removed the individual polybags completely from all shipments of samples sent to HQ – and are working with other key partners to ship their products without polybags.
  • •We’re currently in the middle of another audit that will lead to less, and even smaller, polybags in future seasons.
  • •We’re constantly thinking creatively about how to get a second or third life from the bags. We moved the little ventilation holes up to the top of the bag so that it can be reused as a doggy pick-up bag or for your dirty clothes on a weekend getaway (keep reading for more on that).

 

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But what about alternatives?

The short answer: The current alternative options just don’t match up to our sustainability requirements. And there isn’t enough research yet to prove that alternative options are actually better.

Here’s the long answer: Believe it or not, alternative materials (like compostable plastic) are often not as awesome as they sound. Most compostable plastics (this goes for cups and silverware too) can only be composted in industrial compost facilities, which are rare in the U.S. And even if they make it as far as an industrial composter, they take much longer to break down than the true organic waste. What does this mean?

  • •This can end up causing issues like slowing down the turnover of the facility by causing employees to pull out the compostable plastics to put them back in with the next load of organic waste. Sometimes this takes 5-6 cycles before the plastic is fully broken down!
  • •Often the compostable plastics are thrown into the recycle stream where they can ruin processing machines, so in most places the presence of compostable plastics often cause the whole batch of recycling to be sent to the landfill.
  • •Even when the compostable plastics do fully break down, their presence can degrade the rest of the compost in the batch because they break down into a sticky, resin-y mess. This creates poor compost that’s not rich or nutritious for plants (like compost from truly organic materials is).

 

We promise to keep an eye on alternatives and are constantly evaluating how they stack up to what we’re currently doing. And while we’re always working to REDUCE the amount of plastic, here are some ideas for how you can REUSE the bags in the meantime.

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  • 1) Dog poop bag. Done and done.
  • 2) Store your phone, wallet, and keys when hiking in the rain. Keep bags on hand to cover your muddy shoes before you get back into your car.
  • 3) A simple starter pot for plants: Fold down the bag until it’s as tall as you want the soil to be, poke a few holes in the bottom, fill with soil, and plant your seeds.
  • 4) Scoop cat litter with leftover bags or use one to line the litter box.
  • 5) Hang a cedar closet bag (fill a bag with cedar chips, tie it closed, then poke several small holes in the bottom with a safety pin) to repel moths. Or fill the bag with flower petals, crushed fragrant leaves, and a couple of drops of aromatic oil for an easy DIY sachet to freshen up musty drawers.
  • 6) Fill a bag with distilled white vinegar (a couple of inches below the vent holes), then tie it around your showerhead to remove soap scum and mildew.
  • 7) Cover fragile plants with plastic bags if you detect frost on the way. Same goes for outdoor padlocks in the winter to keep them from freezing.
  • 8) Replace bubble wrap with plastic bags when mailing packages. You can use the same trick when packing away breakable holiday decorations.
  • 9) Use the plastic to stuff winter boots or bags you don’t use in the summer to help them keep their shape.
  • 10) Put plastic bags under furniture you’re painting. They also work great for protecting tables and counters when kiddos are doing craft projects.

 

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And of course, we’re always looking for other ways to cut back on waste, like by making clothes from recycled plastic and offering reusable shippers. Because just like you, every step we take counts!

 

How to Make Fabric From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Make no mistake: Recycled fabrics are the most sustainable fabrics you can find. “Ya, but recycled fabrics still use so much energy to convert old stuff into new fabric…” Yes, but they don’t use nearly as much energy or resources as creating fibers and fabrics from scratch.

Take new polyester vs. recycled polyester. Virgin polyester is made from a combination of coal, ethylene (which is derived from petroleum), air, and water, which are formed from a chemical reaction under extremely high heat (If you’re a science nerd, here’s all the chemistry behind it). It’s a high energy process that relies on even more energy and natural resources when you consider the amount of resources it takes to extract coal and petroleum from the earth. Not great.

Recycled polyester, on the other hand, is made from recycled plastic bottles which cuts out the need for petroleum and coal extraction. Our recycled polyester literally starts at the dump to collect plastic bottles that don’t belong in landfills (yay waste-reduction!). From there, the plastic bottles are shredded into flakes by a machine (that can be run on renewable energy!). Those flakes are melted down into pellets, then the pellets are extruded (think spun and pulled like taffy) into yarn. The yarn is then knitted, cut, and sewn into clothing just like any other yarn. Check out this video for the whole breakdown.

 

It takes about 9 bottles to make one T-shirt. All of our recycled polyester fibers are made from 100% post-consumer plastic bottles and they’re GRS Certified (Global Recycling Standard). Only 9% of the Earth’s plastic has been recycled, but we’re committed to boosting that percentage by using more recycled polyester every year.

In 2018 alone, we spared 12 tons of reusable material from entering the landfill, 8.7 million gallons of water, and 51 tons of C02 emissions by using recycled wool, recycled cotton and recycled polyester. The future is recycled!

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Shop Men’s Recycled Styles

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Shop Women’s Recycled Styles