Single-use plastic waste and the fashion industry
In early 2017 the United Nations Environment Program identified two major sources of marine pollution: single use plastic and microplastics. Sadly, the textile industry is a major contributor to both these types of plastic.
The fashion industry is no stranger to unnecessary single use plastic waste. Every garment and accessory sitting in a warehouse needs a bag to protect it from dust, dirt, oils and weather. These bags are designed to be used once and then thrown away.
It's estimated 1.75 trillion garments are sold globally per year. Even if just 10% of those garments are individually bagged (a very conservative estimate), that means 175 BILLION (!!) individual, single-use bags are used by the fashion industry annually.
KOOSHOO’S Plastic-free Solution to Eliminate Single Use Plastic Bags in our Supply Chain
When we launched KOOSHOO we were intent not to contribute to that gross statistic. For this reason, we spent months searching for and eventually found a partner that would make 100% biodegradable plastic bags for our products. At the time (back in 2012) we were really proud of this solution but one day out-of-the-blue our supplier stopped making the biodegradable bags, offering only 100% recycled plastic bags as an eco-friendly alternative.
While this was better than virgin plastic, we knew we could do much better. After an exhaustive global search, we found exactly what we had been looking for all along: an environmentally friendly shipping partner that....
1) Stores our products bulk (100 units to a box - no plastic bags), then picks exactly what's required when an order comes in. This way, whether you order 1 pack of hair ties or 10, you're only getting one shipping bag. Speaking of bags...
2) We now ship using 100% recycled paper mailing envelopes. While we wish we had known this was an option back in 2012, we sell way more hair ties today then we did back then and we're so happy to know that our impact has been minimized. Not only do these 100% recycled paper envelopes help protect your hair ties on their way to you, they are also 100% recyclable!
3) While we ship most products in envelopes, if you are ordering a lot of hair ties (shout out to our incredible retail partners around the world), boxes are required. For these orders, we use paper packing tape that is water activated. This ensures we provide a 100% plastic-free, 100% environmentally friendly shipping option.
Today, every pack of Hair Ties sold from our website ships 100% plastic-free. This commitment extends to every product we'll make from here forward. If we can minimize waste further, we will!
Plastic-Free Packaging at Free People
We recently launched our Organic Twist Headbands with Free People, one of the world’s best known clothing retailers. It was a big moment when we received an email from them out of the blue asking to carry our products.
Early in our conversations it came up that they required every product in their distribution warehouses to be individually packed in a bag. Their expectation was that we would put each pack of our products in plastic bags for storage at their facility.
We pushed back, essentially saying that we either ship to them using our 100% recycled paper bags or we would have to turn down the business.
Credit to Free People as they got back to us soon after that call to say the paper packaging was approved. While we may just be a minnow in their sea of products, we’re incredibly proud to be the only product in their warehouses (to our knowledge) packaged in 100% recycled paper packaging.
If you want to show your support for a massive brand like Free People taking a chance on a ethics-first product like our Hair Ties, please buy one of our Organic Twist Headbands from them and leave a review saying how much you appreciate their push for eco-friendly alternatives to mainstream products. Remember: as a customer, you have immense power in how companies choose to do business.
What Comes Next in the Fight to Reduce Plastics
As mentioned off the top, we conservatively estimate that 175 billion single-use plastic bags are used by the textile industry every year and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the textile industry’s reliance on plastics (AKA polyesters, spandex, synthetics, nylons…). It’s a staggering and heart-wrenching number but you CAN do something about it:
Buy second-hand. Second-hand clothing is rarely re-bagged on an individual level. If you want to reduce the number of bags you consume, choose a product that doesn’t require one.
Seek out companies like KOOSHOO that package sustainably. Look up "brands that use paper packaging” and send your dollars to them instead. Make a show of telling the story of your product when it arrives via your social media (#feelingkooshoo) or with friends and family. Make it known that you will only accept recyclable packaging when buying new.
Write to your favorite brands and demand better. Companies that are worth their salt will respond and take your feedback seriously. If they don’t, choose to spend your dollars elsewhere. The cost difference between single-use plastic and 100% recycled paper is considerable on a small margin product but the payoff to the environment and marketing for the brand easily outweighs those costs. Push them to do better - you’ll be surprised by what may happen!
Choose natural textiles wherever possible. While this may be a post about plastic bags, the reality is most clothing in the world is actually made of plastic (spandex, nylon, polyester, acrylic…) and these textile plastics are brutal for our environment. According to the Vancouver Aquarium, “a single polyester sweater can release a million tiny plastic fibers in one laundry cycle”. Always try to choose organic cotton, linen, hemp or any other natural textile before going synthetic. Your body (who wants to wear plastic, after all?) and our environment will thank you!
Thank you for choosing to support business done right - we can tell you first hand, your support really does make a huge difference!