How Sustainable Are PLA Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

How Sustainable Are PLA Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis

By
Quynh Nguyen

Read Time:20 Minutes

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PLA (polylactic acid) is often hailed as a solution to the many problems caused by conventional fossil-based plastic. As a material made with bio-based plastics, PLA fabrics often come under the halo of renewability, biodegradability, and compostability, but are these qualities truly earned? So, we had to ask: How sustainable are PLA fabrics?

PLA fabrics are generally unsustainable. Manufacturing PLA is energy intensive. The PLA’s end-of-life options are limited due to the challenges of recycling or composting this material. But the bio-based plastic PLA is somewhat more sustainable than its fossil-based counterparts in making fabrics.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of PLA fabrics used for clothes and bedding. Then, we will evaluate its sustainability, potential, and shortfalls. And in the end, we’ll show you tips for buying sustainable products made with PLA fabrics.

Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of PLA Fabrics

PLA fabrics are generally considered unsustainable because of the energy-intensive manufacturing processes and the limited options available at the end of the fabrics’ life. However, PLA fabrics could be a sustainable alternative to conventional fossil-based plastics such as virgin polyester or nylon

The Common Objective’s Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibres ranked PLA fiber as a class C fiber, which is the middle point of their sustainability scale. Other similarly ranked fibers are conventional linen, conventional hemp, and ramie. The ranking assesses, however, the average PLA fibers and does not consider more sustainable alternatives like recycled PLA fabrics. 

“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

To understand the sustainability of PLA fabrics, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of PLA fabrics!

In this article, we’ll use the cradle-to-grave perspective of the LCA, examining the five stages of the life-cycle of clothes and bedding made with PLA fabrics. When applicable, we also look at cradle-to-gate assessments

The life-cycle stages of PLA fabricsEach stage’s sustainability
Sourcing of PLA fabricsSourcing plant materials to make PLA fabrics can be sustainable. As plants sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the climate crisis, plant materials are thus renewable, contrary to the nonrenewable fossil fuels used to make conventional plastics for fabrics like polyester or nylon. However, the traditional corn crop—the common feedstock for PLA fabrics in the US—is not very sustainable due to the high level of fertilizer and pesticide usage coming hand in hand with corn farming’s monocropping culture. 
Manufacturing of PLA fabricsManufacturing PLA fabrics is generally not sustainable. The process is energy-intensive. High energy demand could have serious knock-on ecological impacts when fossil fuels are the main energy source at manufacturing locations. 
Transporting of PLA fabricsTransporting PLA fabrics is generally unsustainable. It can be a carbon-intensive life-cycle stage for clothing and household items made with PLA fibers due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. PLA fabrics typically travel from fields (where the plant materials are sourced) to factories, then sorting centers, shops, and then consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 
Usage of PLA fabricsUsing PLA fabrics is generally sustainable. PLA fabrics are breathable and, thus, don’t require washing too frequently, which saves water and energy. Also, as a bio-based material, PLA fabrics don’t shed microplastics into the environment, like in the case of fabrics made with fossil-based plastics. PLA fabrics can be fairly durable, especially when PLA fiber is treated during production or blended with another fiber, yet not comparable to synthetic fibers’ durability. 
End-of-life of PLA fabricsThe end-of-life stage for PLA fabrics is not very sustainable, though there are more options available for the end-of-life of PLA fabrics than synthetic fabrics. Composting and recycling PLA fabrics are possible, though these end-of-life options have some logistical challenges. Landfilling is currently the most feasible option for PLA fabrics at the end-of-life, where they break down very slowly in natural environment temperatures. 

We can say that PLA fabrics are generally not very sustainable, but recycled PLA fabrics can be sustainable. However, the actual environmental impact of a particular product, whether a shirt or a bag, depends on more specific factors, including: 

  • the sourcing of plant materials
  • the type of energy used in manufacturing and usage
  • the distance and mode of transportation 

Let’s dive deeper into each life-cycle stage and find out how you can buy PLA fabrics more sustainably.

How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Raw Materials for PLA Fabrics

Sourcing plant materials to make PLA fabrics can be sustainable. As plants sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the climate crisis, plant materials are thus renewable, contrary to the nonrenewable fossil fuels used to make conventional plastics for fabrics like polyester or nylon. However, the traditional corn crop—the common feedstock for PLA fabrics in the US—is not very sustainable due to the high level of fertilizer and pesticide usage coming hand in hand with corn farming’s monocropping culture. 

What Raw Materials Are Used for PLA Fabrics

The raw materials used to make PLA fabrics are sugar or starch from renewable plant resources. 

Plant materials, such as tapioca starch, corn starch, or sugarcane, are the feed for a fermentation process that creates lactic acid—the monomer at the core of PLA (polylactic acid). 

In the following section, we’ll discuss cultivating corn plants because corn starch is the most common choice of feedstock in the US to make PLA fabrics

How Do the Raw Materials Sourced for PLA Fabrics Impact the Environment 

Sourcing conventional corn plants as raw materials for PLA fabrics is unsustainable. The corn crop is typically grown as a mono-crop. Monocropping requires a lot of fertilizer because it depletes the soil’s vital nutrients and minerals. Synthetic fertilizer production and usage have high greenhouse gas emissions. Also, fertilizer runoff causes freshwater contamination, potentially disrupting the ecosystem and causing biodiversity loss. However, growing corn, like other plants, has a carbon sequestration potential. 

The common monoculture practices in corn cultivation deplete nutrients in the soil and change the soil’s structure as well as the fields’ biodiversity. As a result, fertilizer, pesticides, and heavy irrigation are often necessary for monoculture corn farming. The need to water the plants and the intensive use of agrochemicals (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) have many adverse environmental impacts. 

The following are some major environmental impacts of cultivating corn in monoculture agriculture. 

Producing and Using Synthetic Fertilizer Emits Greenhouse Gasses 

The production of synthetic fertilizer is a source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • Ammonia—a nitrogen-containing compound—is the second-most commonly produced chemical in the world. It is used in huge quantities in major crops, including corn. 
  • Manufacturing ammonia requires high pressure and elevated temperatures, leading to significant energy consumption. Dependency on fossil fuels to generate energy can lead to elevated carbon dioxide emissions. 
  • Ammonia production accounts for about 1.8% of the global carbon dioxide emissions.

The application of synthetic fertilizer is an even larger source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

  • When farmers give crops more ammonia than they need, typically double the amount, the excess fertilizer runs off into waterways or gets broken down by microbes in the soil, releasing the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. 
  • The per kilogram global warming potential of nitrous oxide is 273 times that of carbon dioxide within 100 years. 
  • Nitrous oxide has an atmospheric lifetime of 114 years, which is much longer than the 12-year atmospheric life of methane.

Ammonia from fertilizer application in corn cultivation is an important source of air pollution, affecting both the planet and human health, according to a study of the US corn industry. 

Fertilizer Run-off Causes Freshwater Contamination, Disrupts the Ecosystem, and Leads to Biodiversity Loss

Fertilizer run-off from corn fields contaminated rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Even though fertilizer is not directly toxic to organisms living in freshwater bodies the way pesticides are, fertilizer run-off could alter the nutrient system, affecting the balance of the ecosystem. 

For example, excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) in rivers and lakes can lead to an explosive growth of algae. 

  • As algae consume oxygen and block sunlight from underwater plants, their bloom results in dead zones in the water (fishes and other species being killed off).
  • Also, some harmful algae produce extremely dangerous toxins that can make people and animals sick or even die. 
Using Pesticides Contaminates Soil and Groundwater 

Using chemical and synthetic pesticides in corn cultivation is potentially harmful, threatening the quality of soil and water, the biodiversity of the fields and surrounding areas, and the health of farm workers and nearby populations. 

However, it is important to stress that corn can be cultivated in an organic system, which relies on natural measures to combat pests and the use of manure instead of synthetic fertilizer. 

Carbon Sequestration During Corn Cultivation Has Positive Global Warming Impact 

As corn plants grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while releasing oxygen. During their lifespan, they act as a carbon sink, taking greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and helping to mitigate the climate crisis

It is important to note that though the production and application of fertilizer in conventional corn cultivation have high greenhouse gas emissions, they can be counterbalanced by the carbon uptake from the corn plants. 

Consequently, plant-based plastics like PLA would have a smaller carbon footprint during the sourcing stage than fossil-based plastics, which are used to make polyester, polyamide, or acrylic. According to Bioplastic News, replacing petroleum-based plastics with PLA could reduce the 1% of US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with plastic production.

Where Are the Raw Materials for PLA Fabrics Usually Sourced From

The US is the biggest producer of corn starch in the world. Other big producers spread around the globe, both in Asia (China and India) and Europe (Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands). 

It is important to note that fertilizer regulations vary significantly among regions, countries, and even states in the US. Some places maintain stricter control over matters such as labels, nutrient content, and restrictions on substances like heavy metals. 

How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of PLA Fabrics

Manufacturing PLA fabrics is generally not sustainable. The process is energy-intensive. High energy demand could have serious knock-on ecological impacts when fossil fuels are the main energy source at manufacturing locations. 

How Sustainably Are PLA Fabrics Generally Manufactured

The typical PLA fabric manufacturing process includes the following steps: 

  1. Fermentation & polymerization: The starting steps of PLA fabric production involve: 
    • extracting starch or sugar from plants: various types of plants—corn, sugarcane, wheat, tapioca, rice, rye, sweet potato, sugar beat, etc.—can be used, yet corn is the most common commercial option to produce PLA.
    • converting starch into sugar if using starch instead of sugar
    • fermenting sugar with the help of microorganisms to generate lactic acid 
    • polymerizing lactic acid to form PLA using either polycondensation or ring-opening polymerization. Requirements of chemical solvents, heat, and pressure vary depending on the polymerization methods, leading to varied environmental impacts. 
  2. Spinning: PLA polymer resin is spun into PLA filaments using one of the following methods: 
    • dry-spinning
    • wet-spinning
    • melt-spinning

Melt-spinning is the most common method used in the commercial production of PLA due to the high production speed and solvent omission. In dry-spinning and wet-spinning, solvents are needed. Those solvents can be toxic and difficult to recycle, increasing capital and environmental costs. PLA yarn can be spun from pure PLA fiber or blended between PLA fiber and other fibers like cotton, lyocell, or viscose

  1. Weaving or knitting: The spun PLA yarns can be knitted and woven into PLA fabrics. 
  2. Wet processing of PLA fabrics: PLA fabrics often undergo a series of final processing steps to increase their appearance, hand feel, stability, and durability. This can include the following:
    • pretreatments to remove impurity (scouring), soften and whiten the fabrics (bleaching), improve wicking properties, increase stability (pre-heat setting) 
    • dyeing: both synthetic and natural dyes can be used on PLA fabrics
    • printing
    • other finishing treatments, such as increasing moisture transmission or UV resistance

The key factor in determining the sustainability of manufacturing PLA fabrics is the high energy demand. 

The conversion step, where plant materials are turned into PLA polymers, is especially energy-intensive.

Other processes with high energy demand are spinning, weaving and/or knitting, and even some fabric treatments. 

When manufacturing burns fossil fuels for energy, high energy usage leads to elevated global warming impact

Where Are PLA Fabrics Usually Manufactured

The world’s top polylactic acid producers for various applications, including textiles, are as followings: 

  • US
  • China
  • Japan 
  • Netherlands 
  • Belgium 
  • Germany 

The manufacturing location, or more specifically, the energy structure at a manufacturing facility, is a significant factor for PLA’s sustainability because its production is energy-intensive. 

According to Our World in Data, the shares of renewable energy in primary energy within major PLA-producing nations vary significantly, with Germany having the highest percentage. 

  • US: 10.66% renewable energy
  • China: 14.95% renewable energy
  • Japan: 11.46% renewable energy
  • Netherlands: 12.37% renewable energy 
  • Belgium: 9.34% renewable energy
  • Germany: 19.45% renewable energy

Using renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) would significantly reduce carbon emissions at this sourcing stage. 

How Sustainable Is the Transportation of PLA Fabrics

Transporting PLA fabrics is generally unsustainable. It can be a carbon-intensive life-cycle stage for clothing and household items made with PLA fibers due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. PLA fabrics typically travel from fields (where the plant materials are sourced) to factories, then sorting centers, shops, and then consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. 

For example, in the life-cycle of PLA clothes, transportation typically occurs: 

  • from fields where corn plants are grown to the PLA fiber and fabrics manufacturing location(s),
  • from the PLA fabric manufacturing location(s) to sorting centers and/or physical shops, 
  • from sorting centers and/or physical shops to the consumer’s home, and
  • from the consumer’s home to the centers for recycling and/or disposal.
Traveling Distances of PLA Fabrics Vary Depending on the Supply Chain

It is not uncommon for PLA fabrics to have their supply chain spreading globally, meaning that farming, fiber and fabric processing, and finishing might happen in various towns, countries, or even continents.

Here are some example scenarios for transporting PLA fabrics: 

  • Corn plants are harvested from fields in one US state and trucked to another to be turned into PLA yarn. The yarns are shipped to various textile factories across Asia to be made into clothes and household items, which are then sold in markets around the world.
  • Farmers grow sugarcane in Thailand to be sourced and transported to a manufacturer in China. The sugar is fed into the PLA production line to make fiber, fabrics, and garments there. PLA garments are shipped to Europe and North America to sell to consumers.
  • Corn plants are grown in the Netherlands. PLA fibers are manufactured in Germany. PLA clothes are made in Czechia to be sold in Europe. 

You can reduce the transporting carbon footprint by choosing PLA fabrics that travel shorter distances.

The Carbon Footprint of Transporting PLA Fabrics Depends Largely on the Vehicle of Transportation 

During its life-cycle, a piece of PLA clothing can be transported using various types of vehicles, including: 

  • large container ships 
  • planes 
  • freight trains 
  • long-distance trucks 
  • short-distance delivering vans 

And these various types of transportation vehicles have different carbon footprint impacts, as examined below: 

For example, as a consumer, you can choose not to pick the fast delivery option when ordering PLA clothing items and accessories to reduce the carbon footprint of your order. 

How Sustainable Is the Usage of PLA Fabrics

Using PLA fabrics is generally sustainable. PLA fabrics are breathable and, thus, don’t require washing too frequently, which saves water and energy. Also, as a bio-based material, PLA fabrics don’t shed microplastics into the environment, like in the case of fabrics made with fossil-based plastics. PLA fabrics can be fairly durable, especially when PLA fiber is treated during production or blended with another fiber, yet not comparable to synthetic fibers’ durability. 

Shirts, dresses, or underwear made with PLA fabrics are generally more breathable than those made with synthetic materials, including nylon, polyester, or acrylic. This is because PLA fiber has a relatively high natural ability to absorb water compared to most other thermoplastic polymers, including polypropylene, nylon, and PET. Breathability is a sign of sustainability in usage because it means fabrics don’t require washing frequently, which thus saves water and energy. 

Additionally, PLA fabrics, made from either pure PLA fibers or a blend between PLA and other bio-based fibers, don’t shed microplastics into the environment during the usage phase. This is contrary to fabrics such as polyester, polyamide, polyurethane, or acrylic, which are manufactured using fossil fuels. 

Plastic-based textiles are responsible for around half a million tons of plastic microfibers shed into the oceans annually as these fabrics are washed. At sea or in other water bodies, these microplastics cause harm to fish that ingest them and numerous animals (including us humans) further up the food chain. 

PLA fiber offers good durability. It does have a low breaking strength, but that drawback can be altered during production or through blending PLA fiber with other polymers

Compared to synthetic plastics, bio-based plastic PLA fiber is, unfortunately, generally inferior in strength. For example, a study showed that knitted fabrics made with PLA fiber had a bursting strength lower than fabrics made with polyamide 6 fiber and significantly lower than fabrics made with polyester. Blending PLA fiber with, for example, lyocell fiber significantly increased the fabric’s bursting strength, yet it remained lower than that of PET/cotton blended fabric

Using strong and durable materials is sustainable because you don’t need to replace them too frequently (thus, there is no need for more resources to make new fabric). 

As a consumer, you can reduce the environmental impact of your usage by modifying some laundering habits, including: 

  • wash PLA fabrics less often, 
  • switch to line drying instead of using tumble driers, 
  • do cold washes with appropriate detergents, and
  • use energy-efficient washing machines. 

How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of PLA Fabrics

The end-of-life stage for PLA fabrics is not very sustainable, though there are more options available for the end-of-life of PLA fabrics than synthetic fabrics. Composting and recycling PLA fabrics are possible, though these end-of-life options have some logistical challenges. Landfilling is currently the most feasible option for PLA fabrics at the end-of-life, where they break down very slowly in natural environment temperatures. 

The end-of-life of PLA fabrics is often misunderstood as being sustainable because this material is bio-based. Some bio-based fabrics made with natural plant cellulose—like cotton, linen, hemp, jute, and ramie—have several options at the end of their life: incineration, recycling, composting, and landfilling. However, the situation for the bio-based PLA is different and, in fact, a bit more complicated. 

Firstly, a piece of fabric being made with plant materials (bio-based) doesn’t necessarily ensure its biodegradability. The exception is, in actuality, applied to PLA fabrics. 

Secondly, bio-based materials can generally be composted to provide nutrients back to the soil. However, the conditions for composting PLA aren’t necessarily doable at home or even at a municipal level. Composting PLA materials requires a closed environment where they are heated to 140 degrees and exposed to special digestive microbes. Thus, this option is generally only available at specialized industrial composting facilities. Under such specific conditions, PLA fibers break down in 45 days

Thirdly, it is possible to recycle PLA via the chemical and mechanical routes (more on this in the next section). Yet, the infrastructure for recycling PLA is still fairly limited, resulting in small numbers of recycled PLA fabrics. 

Finally, what is left for PLA fabrics at the end of their life is landfilling—the option that is currently most feasible. PLA fibers are generally considered not biodegradable in soil: only 1% will be degraded after 100 years. Thus, PLA fabrics will stay for a long, long time at a soil-based landfill, similar to their synthetic plastic counterparts. 

How Circular Are Products Made of PLA Fabrics

In the textile industry, a circular economy is designed to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, especially through reusing and recycling. It also covers regenerating natural systems that support the industry and reducing polluted waste released into such systems.

“The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

As a whole, the textile industry is almost linear: 97% of the input is new resource.

 There are two routes to recycle PLA: mechanical and chemical

  • Mechanical recycling of PLA materials includes eight steps: separation, grinding, washing, drying, extrusion, cooling, granulation, and sieving.
  • Chemical recycling of PLA materials goes through two stages: hydrolysis and polymerization. This route is complicated and requires significant energy. 

The challenges with recycling PLA fabrics are the lack of adequate infrastructure, the high sorting cost, and the recycled PLA’s poor quality. 

How Can You Buy PLA Fabrics More Sustainably

The key to sustainably buying PLA products is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. 

  • OEKO-TEX®: OEKO-TEX® labels aim to ensure that products pose no risk to human health (i.e. containing banned chemicals). 
  • STeP by OEKO-TEX®: STeP by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system for brands, retailers, and manufacturers from the textile and leather industry. It communicates organizational environmental measures, including reducing carbon footprint and water usage.
  • Recycled Claim Standard (RCS): The Textile Exchange RCS was originally developed as an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled input and chain of custody. (For recycled PLA fibers)
  • The Global Recycled Standard (GRS): The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. It can be used for any product with more than 20% recycled material. (For recycled PLA fibers)

Some certifications are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are: 

  • B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts. 
  • Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Where to Buy Sustainable PLA Fabrics 

We have established throughout the life-cycle assessment that PLA fabrics are generally unsustainable largely because of the energy-intensive production and the limited options at the end of the PLA product’s life. However, researchers and textile manufacturers (such as Nilmore) have found ways to make PLA fabrics more sustainable, including: 

  • recycling PLA fibers to reduce pressure on natural resources 
  • manufacturing PLA fibers and fabrics in locations with high shares of renewable energy

As a consumer, you can look out for these indicators when buying PLA clothing and household items.

Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics

It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint 

The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber)—a quarter of PLA’s carbon footprint. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand For Natural Resources and Waste Management

The textile industry uses water and land to grow cotton and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton t-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).

Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfill (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,

  • Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
  • In other words, more than 97% of resources used in making clothes are extracted new. 

When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time—under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes—the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown. 

Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:

  • Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often. 
  • Thus, you help reduce to pressure to extract more resources for making new items. 

Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests

Sustainable plant-based fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards

When you buy sustainable plant-based fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effect of climate change. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals 

The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like cashmere or leather. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.

Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives. 

Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, leather or wool; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry. 

Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers 

Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated as many as 170 million child laborers worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours. 

When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.

Final Thoughts

PLA (polylactic acid) fabrics are generally not very sustainable, except when recycled PLA is used. PLA production is energy intensive while disposing of PLA fabrics is proven to be challenging. 

However, PLA fabrics tend to be more sustainable than fabrics made with fossil-based plastic counterparts like polyester or nylon because the former don’t contribute to microplastic problems in marine environments, and sourcing plant-based materials is less polluting and carbon-intensive than sourcing fossil fuels. 

You can make your use of PLA fabrics more sustainable by following these steps:

  1. Buy second-hand, recycled, or upcycled PLA products.
  2. While using PLA clothing and household items, maximize the number of wears between washes, and keep them as long as possible.
  3. At the end-of-life of your PLA products, upcycle the material to extend its usage and arrange for it to be recycled or properly disposed of.

Stay impactful,



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